Gretchen believed her mission in life was to restore broken people, my new husband Keith said of his daughter who’d committed suicide. But when I read Gretchen’s journals, I felt more broken than ever before, not at all restored, my twenty-year faith shaken. I was afraid of a dead girl I’d never met and didn’t know why.
Reading Gretchen’s Journals: What a dead girl taught me about life is a spiritual memoir. Framed by the present-day story of building a mountain house with Keith, the narrative braids my past with Gretchen’s. Initially, her past seemed opposite from mine. Then secrets emerged from documents hidden in my closet: the brutal attack on my mother when I was five, my panic attacks beginning in adolescence, and a breakdown in college. With uncanny parallels, Gretchen experiences parental divorce at age five, her first bipolar episode in adolescence, and serial breakups in college. Two lost sheep, two prodigals: an atheist and a doubter. I survived a failed first marriage, struggled when parenting my own daughter, and found love. I also found God, or He found me thanks to seed-sowing friends. But the honesty Keith’s daughter recorded in her journals illuminated how little I understood faith. Reading Gretchen’s Journals is a story of conversion, hope, and love—a journey in faith.