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Book Review: The Fault Lines Founding Liberty

Friday, 7 January 2022  | Claire Harvey

The Fault Lines Founding Liberty

By Sarah Bacaller

(Eugene, OR.: Wipf and Stock, 2020)


This short (71 page) novella is a touching and heart-warming summer read, especially for those looking to support an emerging female and ‘Aussie’ author.

In The Fault Lines Founding Liberty, Sarah Bacaller weaves multiple threads together in a way that creates empathy and intrigue, drawing readers into a beautiful journey as witnesses to an emerging friendship. The younger of two women juggles the rather monotonous - and at times asphyxiating - challenges of parenting young children, whereas her companion struggles increasingly with ageing. In common are their questions and reflections about God, faith and church, all cast in light of the varied complexities of their lived experience.

Sarah paints vivid pictures of raw emotion, at times describing in glorious detail the inner world of an over-thinker who is simultaneously earnest and anxious. In this sense the book narrates the central character’s conversation with herself as much as it traces the unfolding conversation, and connection, between two thoughtful and sincere women.

But the nagging sense that I am a fallen prodigal lingers ... and “God” hasn’t gone away. Somehow, God has gotten under my skin; the questions are too deep to excise. Always looking over my shoulder, I am haunted by the specters of unanswered questions. My fear of unresolved judgement is nourished by insecurities, but I don’t know how to uproot them; they have grown bigger than me. And who am I kidding? The self-scrutiny hasn’t gone away. The harder I try to ignore God, the more frequently God turns up. That’s why I’d choked on my tea. (p.13)

It’s far too easy for Census or National Church Life Survey data to lead us to believe that there are three main groups of people in Australia: those inside the church (believers), those outside the church (non-believers) and those of other faiths. But this simplistic understanding of things of course betrays the tremendous complexity of life and faith, of seasons of plenty and seasons of lack, and of the questions that we carry in our hearts, sometimes unconfessed - even to ourselves. A gift offered by this unique story is the reminder that there is nearly always more going on under the surface, if we are quiet enough to listen. This is a story where two women choose to listen: to themselves and to one another, pursuing growth and grace through their regular encounters.

I am not going to be smote. I can face challenges with grace. I see that life can be received as gift, but that I must also struggle to shape it that way. I do not feel euphoric, because I know I won’t ever “arrive”. But I do feel delighted to feel comfortable for a moment in the midst of life. To feel comfortable in my own skin is the best feeling I have felt. (p.62)

This short novella presents itself as a wonderful conversation starter (perhaps even for some who suppress a deep yearning to once again be in conversation with their God). I commend it to you for reading and reflection, and for passing on to a friend.


Claire Harvey is involved in The Village Church, Mount Eliza. She is a member of the Ethos board and a Councillor with Frankston City Council in Melbourne’s Southeast.

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