Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber

Carolyn Weber did not come by things easily. If she wanted it, she worked for it. Growing up in a single parent home with a mother who did everything she could to make ends meet and a transient father who would come in and out of their lives a few times every year, she learned that if she needed anything she would have to do it herself. After working tirelessly and receiving a full-ride scholarship to Oxford – tuition, food, and living included – she was able to take some time to fully immerse herself in her studies and relationships. It just so happens that the relationships she was building were with a group of Christians who were able to help her navigate the terrain and claims of Christianity.

In this memoir, Weber keeps you captivated through a year in her life by modelling it after the Oxford school calendar and incorporating shorter stories within a larger chapter framework. It is not so much an autobiography, in that she does not focus on telling about her achievements, but more like a memoir, in that she is telling stories of her life and experiences which lead one to learn and grow in their own life and faith. As a literature major and professor, she uses many of the skills that she learned and acquired to help make this book as captivating as possible, including many different quotes throughout from the Romantics.

I was drawn to this book because of the raw material and stories that Weber uses to illustrate her life and ever growing faith, alongside a deep admiration of Oxford and some of its better known alumni (C.S. Lewis, for one). Her honesty with struggling through the claims of the faith and desire to dig deeper are inspiring and life giving; offering hope and a desire to continue to dive deeper into the Word and the claims of the Bible, learning to better understand the faith which I have grown up in. While there are points of theology I do not necessarily agree with, Weber has a way with words which help one to understand where she is coming from and helps one to grow in one’s own appreciation for differing theological viewpoints.

A telling quote of what to expect from Weber is, “The surrounding darkness threatened to swallow me up, seated at the table in its midst, in my little pool of light. Without warning everything we do seemed meaningless, regardless of our lines of work. Was any way of trading my time for money, or for that matter, any expenditure  of time, for nothing of any true value in the end? But just as suddenly the darkness receded, the pool of light seemed to take me in, as I thought how anything we do—any job, act, gesture—becomes meaningful if done with a heart for God” (124).

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s