book review

Review: The Practice of the Presence of God

The Practice of the Presence of GodThe Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books I keep coming back to. You always think a book like this is just going to be boring and religious and helpful in a vegetables kind of way, but this one’s about a clumsy monk who worked in the clangabang monastery kitchens with everyone shouting for this and that, and still found such a simple pleasure in being with God in the middle of it that the set prayer times were at best no better and at worst a bit of a redundant bother.

The language is old-fashioned and may be a slog for some–he lived centuries ago, after all–but this is a delightfully refreshing reminder that we can keep going back to God any time, and that, religious systems and mystical complications aside, in the end it all comes down to doing everything out of love for (and in love with) God.

There are effective and ineffective ways to go about this, of course, and it’s mentioned several times that it took Brother Lawrence ten years of steady practice before it became totally natural, but as one who has at least occasionally experienced, like him, the need to “take measures” to cover up how gleefully overwhelmed I am by the nearness and kindness of God lest I start to freak the people around me out, I can attest that it’s going to be worth it.

If I could add one book to the Bible, this would be it. For real. Check it out.

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Milestone! My First (Sort Of) Negative Review!

Ok, so I’m probably weird to be excited about it, but The Stone and the Song just got its first 2-star review on Amazon, and I’m actually feeling kind of bubbly. Am I crazy? Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. It’s a review. Right now my big goal is to get 25+ Amazon reviews. While I obviously prefer good ones, every Stone and Song Cover 4 - High Resolutionreview adds weight and validity to the book’s presence on Amazon. Every review is a visible indicator to every future reader ever that someone read it and cared enough to talk about it. And, while it’s probably a bit of a fallacy, I think every review adds to the invisible implied crowd of many other readers who didn’t review it.

2. It’s a rite of passage. Since I’m breaking into the publishing world after self-publishing became really viable, I have pretty minimal experience of getting rejection letters. My plan back in the day was to collect them and set goals to reach a certain number. I never got that chance, so a negative review is one small way to join the universal brotherhood of authors in facing rejection graciously. (My writer character Zen, in the meantime, does collect his rejection letters, and writes thank-you notes for them along with his next submission.)

3. It adds legitimacy. Because seriously, as good as it is to have all 4- and 5-star reviews, until you hit some pretty serious numbers that just looks like you got a bunch of friends to say nice things about you, even if that’s not at all the case. Or, as it may be, only sort of the case.

4. My rating can take it. If most of my reviews were negative, it would be getting pretty hard to take around now. But Stone & Song had a 4.8 rating before this and has a 4.5 now. For a minor, early work, I’ll really be satisfied with anything above a 3.5. Well, ok, anything above a 4.0. But still. I admit I’m a little sad this took the visual down from 5 stars to 4 1/2, but xkcd is a comfort in times like this.

5. For a negative review, it’s pretty positive. The main thrust of the review is something like, “Seems like he’s trying to do something interesting here, but I didn’t really get it.” For a bad review, that’s not half bad. If that’s the worst thing a reader sees when she checks the negative reviews, I’m in good shape. Especially in the context of the other reviews which, if I may paraphrase, say something like, “He’s doing something really interesting here!”

In short, many thanks to Voracious Reader for taking the time to read my story and leave a thoughtful review, and thank you to the (so far) 10 other reviewers for your thrillingly kind words. I deeply appreciate it.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you haven’t read The Stone and the Song yet, you can get it here. If you have read it, it would make my day (and help other readers) if you add your review: Amazon | Goodreads. Thanks!