Lucinda J. Kinsinger, author of “Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite”, recently published “Turtle Heart: Unlikely Friends with a Life-Changing Bond”. Today we’re delighted to share an interview with her conducted by That Jesus Podcast (featuring author Emily Smucker as well) and a written book review.
What happens when Anne from Anne of Green Gables meets Roseanne from the 1988 sitcom? Well maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but this book is a wonderful exploration of two people from two totally different cultures and generations figuring out how to grow and understand each other. I found myself immersed as Lucinda drew me into the story, watching their different personalities play out and, at times, even clash.
One grew up sheltered in a loving and caring family and community, the other in a less stable and harsher world. I like how Lucinda went into the friendship thinking she will be there and help someone in their time of need. And, while she did that, she realized that she also needed Charlene. Much of the time, in life, we find that the people we meet, whom we think need our advice, are the ones who end up teaching us. This book touches on a myriad of topics including doubt, sexuality, abuse, friendship, family, and community.
A part that resonated with me was the discussion about Charlene’s sexuality and her failed relationships with men and women. As someone who experiences same-sex attraction myself and who has in the past acted out on those desires, that part of the story really got my attention. I think Lucinda splendidly conveyed the emotions and questions that come up around this topic and also the shame that this inevitably comes. My heart broke for Charlene as she danced around the topic and tested the waters before broaching the subject… unsure whether this revelation would change their friendship forever. I identified with the feeling of being in those shoes and experiencing afterwards the relief that comes when the confession/revelation is met with care and compassion, the feeling of being received and loved after the momentary awkwardness and surprise fades.
As one who many years held a secret inside and cried myself to sleep wondering if, when my friends found out about my struggles and desires, they would all abandon me, I know what it feels like to carry the weight of something that I can’t change and yet cannot keep bottled up forever, that you desperately want to share even with possibility of abandonment and rejection.
And, while I agree with Lucinda in the traditional sexual ethic and marriage being for one man and one woman, I think she conveys so well why we need to have compassion for people different than ourselves, regardless of where they land on this topic. She embodies how it’s possible to speak the truth in love.
So many times those of us who grew up Mennonite find it hard to build connections with people from outside our little bubbles. But just because we might not get all their slang or pop culture references doesn’t mean we can’t be friends, even close friends. Ultimately, relationships built on shared interests or pop culture only go so deep and then the bottom falls out. Real friendships can transcend the superficial and go so much deeper. Human emotions and personality are an essential part of life no matter what culture we find ourselves in.
Those of us on the conservative end of Christianity sometimes like to put everything into categories of black and white. Sometimes we need to learn to be okay with a little gray and to be okay with humbly saying “ I don’t know”.
This book is one I will gift to people for years to come. In this world that is increasingly becoming lonelier and more fractured, this book couldn’t be more timely. It inspires me to treasure the friendships I do have and to take those deeper while also reaching out and establishing new ones.
There is much more that could be said, but you’ll have to buy the book for that.