Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey

Resurrection YearI should start with the disclaimer that I know Sheridan Voysey a little. He goes to my church, but it’s quite a big church and I think our conversation probably has never gone further than me offering him a choice of tea or coffee. But he does sometimes speak from the front, and I once heard him speak about much of what happens in Resurrection Year (2013) and it was very moving. Soon after, I bought the book… and, eventually, I read it.

The book (a memoir of sorts) starts on Christmas Eve, 2010, in Sydney. This is from the opening pages:

“Let’s just get some takeaway,” Merryn says.

It’s dark but the rain has eased as we walk back to the car, with our packet of mince pies and some bread rolls for tomorrow’s drive. We get in, shut the doors, and Merryn bursts into tears.

“I feel so depressed,” she whimpers.

A Chinese restaurant is open. The motel has a vacant room. We dump our bags on the floor and the food on the table. Merryn collapses on the bed and my heart breaks into a thousand pieces.

I pull out my journal and write:

God, this is cruel – leaving us in the wilderness. We’ve walked round in circles for years – tired, thirsty, and confused. One minute we’ve glimpsed the Promised Land, and the next minute you’ve barred us from entering.

This section is really opening at the midpoint of the story, and it quickly goes back to 2000 to fill in the gaps. Over those ten years, Sheridan and his wife Merryn had been trying to have a child – naturally, through IVF, through adoption. After ten years, they have realised that the final door is closed, and that it almost certainly isn’t going to happen.

The first half of this excellent book takes us through those painful years – painful for the waiting and the hoping as much as the disappointment. We more or less know the outcome from the outset, but it is still a heartbreaking journey to witness, and to share. And Voysey writes it approachably, like a friend filling in a friend on the disappointments he and his wife have weathered, so it does feel like we share it.

Alongside this, of course, is the rest of life: Sheridan’s career as a radio host goes from strength to strength, while Merryn’s career is not going in the direction she wants. What she does want is the chance to work abroad, in an area of science that I couldn’t begin to understand. Their plan is to go to Switzerland – I was a step ahead, as I knew perfectly well that they ended up moving to the UK. Indeed, to Oxford. Indeed, my church – which has a little cameo. And that is exactly what they do.

The second half of the memoir looks at their ‘resurrection year’ – the healing and restoration that God could provide in this move across the world. Certainly it came with its own struggles: while Merryn thrived in her new role, Sheridan had to leave a job he loved, and found it hard to pick up his career in England. And the grief at not having a child couldn’t just go away – Voysey writes about how it affected so many parts of life, from planning for the future to being introduced to a pregnant neighbour.

Resurrection Year is not a theology book, but it is centred around God and soaked in the experience of living with Jesus. I don’t know what somebody without faith would make of it, to be honest, though I’d be intrigued to hear. Voysey never questions his faith (I think there comes a point in a Christian’s life, certainly in mine, where they have seen and heard too much to doubt God’s existence) but he and his wife do question Him about why this is happening – and ask themselves if they have made the right choices, and so on. And He answers questions and prayers in unexpected ways during this ‘Resurrection Year’. But above all this is really just a beautifully honest book about a couple’s experience, told in simple, poignant, disarmingly and almost ruthlessly honest prose.

I read the whole thing in a day or so, and I’m keen to read more by Voysey – and it also makes me wonder what other good faith-based memoirs are out there. Suggestions, please!

4 thoughts on “Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey

  • July 9, 2017 at 3:28 pm
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    This book sounds intriguing. I’ll have to see if I can find it. I’m at an uncertain point in my life, career- wise, and I appreciate hearing perspectives from others who’ve been in a similar position.

    My favorite faith-based memoirs are by Kathleen Norris. Dakota is the one I like the best, because it’s rooted in a vivid sense of place, but The Cloiseter Walk and Amazing Grace are also lovely.

    For something completely different, try Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mounitain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Appalatia. He does a great job of portraying a world alien to most of us without being immediately dismissive or denying the people sincerity of faith.

    I recently read and enjoyed Amy Peterson’s book Dangerous Territory: My Misguided Quest to Save the World. It captures the crisis of faith she experienced when she went to SE Asia as a missionary in her early 20s.

    Lastly, if you’re not familiar with Image Journal, do check it out:https://imagejournal.org/. Their focus is on the intersection of art and faith. I’ve collected a whole list of to-reads from their articles and recommendations.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 9:05 pm
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    Have you ever read anything by Gary Wills? He wrote Why I Am a Catholic which I have not read, but I did read his book What Jesus Meant and I liked it very much. I have his What Paul Meant on my shelf to read as well, just haven’t got around to it yet.

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  • July 11, 2017 at 9:08 pm
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    Have you read any Gary Wills? I think he is more known as a historian but he did write Why I Am a Catholic which I have not read. BUT I did read his book What Jesus Meant which I really enjoyed. I also have his book What Paul Meant on my shelves to read, but haven’t got around to it yet.

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