Review: Surprised by Oxford

Along the Way @ (3)

Who am I? What is my purpose? Why did ___________ happen?

Surprised by Oxford, written by Carolyn Weber, documents one woman’s honest grappling with those questions. Weber’s tale is full of surprises indeed.

Arriving at the old English university to pursue a Masters degree in literature, Weber encounters TDH (Tall, Dark and Handsome). Discovering that he is a Christian after viewing an unfortunately-worded email (one of many humorous scenes), she, an avowed agnostic, sets out to poke holes in his faith. Bitter – understandably so – after a rough home life, Weber finds it difficult to understand how anyone could possibly believe in a good and loving Father.

That first late-night conversation with TDH, recounted in Chapter 7, generates the momentum for the rest of this fascinating and refreshingly real journey of faith. Weber doesn’t pretend to be perfect, nor does she present her cast in rose-colored lighting. Reading her story made me feel as if she were someone I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with; she is an “ordinary” woman with issues and struggles.

As an Anglophile, I ate up every glorious detail about Oxford. (The scene where she and TDH stand atop a church spire… Amazing!) Weber’s style is wonderfully descriptive, though occasionally disjointed. A Ph.D-holding professor of literature, some of her words and phrases were a bit too academic for a book that appears to have been aimed at a general audience. I don’t think that these minor flaws hold the work back in any way, however.

I highly recommend this book, especially to those who are skeptical of Christianity. There are no sugar-coated answers, no cliches allowed to stand unchallenged. This is a tale for anyone brave enough to truly examine the faith.


I received a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review.