God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America
Journalist Lyz Lenz watched both her church and her marriage fall apart in the wake of the 2016 election. Puzzled and heartbroken by the political and cultural divides, she set off to explore Middle America's small, tightly knit communities to understand the history of Midwestern Christianity and the ways it is shifting.
In God Land, her first memoir, Lenz weaves her own story with the stories of people she meets in towns and churches across the American heartland. She tells of her idealism in helping to establish a new church in Marion, Iowa, then her frustration at being silenced by her friends and her husband, as a woman who often held unpopular opinions. She explores the contradictory nature of belief in a stubborn, harsh, often isolating land: church can bind people together but it can also tear them apart.
Having written for the New York Times, Buzzfeed and the Washington Post, Lenz trains her keen journalistic eye on everyone she meets: the traveling pastors who often disagree with their congregants but feel called to serve them; the farmer who diffidently admits to finding God in his fields; the elderly woman who has lived and worshiped in the same small town for decades. Some are emblematic of the Midwest, but none of them are caricatures: they emerge as complex people, full of faith and doubt, hurt and hope--not unlike Lenz herself.
The Midwest and its people resist categorization, and Lenz admits she can't capture the full story. But her sharp, insightful prose and deep compassion help illuminate many facets of a complicated region and its ties to Christianity. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams