The following synopsis is from the Random House website:
In the tradition of Garrison Keillor, Open Secrets captures the friendships, rivalries, and rumors of small-town life by chronicling the lives of the citizens of a small Midwestern community through the eyes of a young minister.
Fresh out of divinity school and bursting with enthusiasm, Richard Lischer found himself assigned to a small conservative church in an economically depressed town in southern Illinois. It’s an awkward marriage at best--a young man with a Ph.D. in theology, full of ideas and ambitions, determined to improve his parish and bring it into the twenty-first century, and a community that is “as tightly sealed as a jar of home-canned pickles.” In Open Secrets, Lischer tells not only his own story but also the story of New Cana and its inhabitants. With charm, openness, and humor, Lischer brings to life the clash of cultures and personalities that marks his pastoral tenure, including his own doubts, as well as those of his parishioners, that a twenty-eight-year-old suburban-raised liberal can deal with the troubled marriages, alcoholism, teen sex, inadequate farm subsidies, and other concerns of the conservative, tightly knit community. But the inhabitants of New Cana--lovable, deeply flawed, imperfect people who stick together--open their arms to him in their own way, and the result is a colorful, poignant comedy of small-town life and all it has to offer.
This was a very interesting book to read considering the fact that I belong to a small Christian church in a rural community. It was both bittersweet and comical at times to see the similarities between my church and the church in this memoir, which are obviously similarities in just about any small rural church out there.The beginning of this book was very difficult for me. He really went into a lot of detail about his education to prepare for his ministry. Much of this information was very specific for a Lutheran education, so if you are not a Lutheran it may very well not hold your interest.
I did appreciate the honest assessment of how he felt when he arrived at the little church in New Cana. After receiving a theological education he had higher aspirations than ministering to the rural church that consisted of a few large families that essentially managed the community. It was evident that he was having a hard time adapting to his new church and pastoral duties. You could see him becoming more confident in his position when he had the opportunity to deliver a couple of sermons at another local church. This also gave his congretation a chance to be a little more appreciative of the gifts that he had to offer.
Our book club consists of ladies that I consider to have a very strong Christian faith. When we first looked at this book we unanimously thought that we would enjoy it. Although we enjoyed many of the little stories within the book, and his truthful assessment of himself, we really did not enjoy this memoir in general. This book was structured in a way that was difficult to read and follow along. A couple of our members our Lutherans, so I at least expected them to like it a bit more, but they did not.
This book does contain good information and I think it would be very valuable for a pastor of a small rural church, but I don't think that it is material worthy for a bookclub discussion. Our book club rates books on a scale from one to five, one being the lowest and five being the highest. This book received an average rating of a two from our club.