If you’re looking for a book to give for Christmas, you might consider Surprised by Oxford. This is a delightful memoir by Carolyn Weber, a Canadian from London, Ontario. It traces her first year as a graduate student at Oxford University (Oriel College). The title, I assume, is meant to recall C. S. Lewis’s memoir, Surprised by Joy, but it nicely anticipates a couple of life-changing surprises for “Caro,” as she is known by her friends. Weber, a brilliant student, comes to study at Oxford in 1994, having won the prestigious Commonwealth Scholarship. She arrives as an agnostic and feminist who is leery of men and religion. Weber is at Oxford to study literature, particularly the Romantics, but she and we are surprised that in the midst of her studies and fellowship of friends, she finds God, or rather, God finds her. Her journey to faith in Christ is just that, told in compelling, believable, and beautifully written prose. The individual most responsible for her conversion is a preacher’s kid, whom she refers to as TDH (Tall, Dark, and Handsome). TDH patiently shares the gospel with her throughout the school year, while Weber begins to read the Bible for the first time—naturally starting at Genesis and reading straight through! But something else is happening in her life, and we soon find that Weber is also surprised by love—a modern-day Elizabeth Bennet. Weber’s story has its share of sadness, as friends and family struggle to understand this change that had come over her, but there is much joy and humor in her account (the “Miss Georgia” episode). Weber’s experience as a believer within the unique cultural milieu of Oxford does not follow the path we are used to in conservative circles. Yet I believe you will find her story to be a gripping, inspiring, and honest account of the grace of God in a sinner’s life.
19 Dec 2011