At 4:30 pm today I opened Emma Scrivener’s book A New Name for the first time. At 4:32 pm, I was sitting in a daze, gazing out of the window in disbelief. A few hours later, I’ve just finished the final page and put the book down, and I can safely say that I’ve never read anything like it.
I can’t begin to “review” this book. To do so would be to suggest that I’m in a position to appraise it, that I know something about the myriad of personal and emotional and spiritual and medical complexities that Emma probes within these pages. I don’t. What I do know, however, is that I’ve learned a good deal about human nature, human complexity, human pain, childhood and parenting, the human heart, sin and grace in the last few hours. And this isn't even a book about "theology."
A New Name is subtitled Grace and healing for anorexia. But it’s about far more than that. It’s for anyone who wants to know how broken people tick - regardless of exactly where the breakage is - and how, by God’s grace, they can be put back together again.
This book is not only for anorexics and dieticians, or even just for “counsellors.” It’s for anyone who cares about badly messed-up people and is willing to live through a tiny taste of the pain they experience in order to help them deal with problems far too big for them to handle alone. It’s for anyone who thinks they might not be a perfect friend or parent or sibling or Pastor, and who wants to avoid making some potentially life-wrecking mistakes (other people’s lives, as well as their own) before it’s too late.
I’ve read a few books on different “personal and pastoral issues” – depression and bulimia and bereavement and so on. Some of them have been pretty helpful. But none of them come close to this. Brutally honest, theologically acute and astonishingly insightful. Alternately heartrending and hilarious. And (for what it’s worth – though frankly it seems almost trivial to mention it) some of the most stylish prose I’ve read in years. Buy two copies, because by the time you’ve finished it you’ll have thought of at least one person who needs it, and yours will be so dog-eared and tear-stained that you’ll be embarrassed to let it be seen in public.