Review: Faith and Other Flat Tires by Andrea Palpant Dilley

Release Date: February 14, 2012
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304 (Paperback)
Genre: Nonfiction, Christian Memoir
My Rating:
A (View Scale)
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At age twenty-one, Andrea Palpant Dilley stripped the Christian fish decal off her car bumper in a symbolic act of departure from her religious childhood. At twenty-three, she left the church and went searching for refuge in the company of men who left her lonely and friends who pushed the boundaries of what she once held sacred.

In this deeply personal memoir, Andrea navigates the doubts that plague believers and skeptics alike: Why does a good God allow suffering? Why is God so silent, distant, and uninvolved? And why does the church seem so dysfunctional?

Yet amid her skepticism, she begins to ask new questions: Could doubting be a form of faith? Might our doubts be a longing for God that leads to a faith we can ultimately live with?

One Sentence Review: Faith and Other Flat Tires is a smart, honest look at how doubt can drive us, shape us, and ultimately lead to a deeper faith.

In-Depth Review

Faith and Other Flat Tires opens with a college-age Palpant scraping the ichthus decal off her bumper. This symbolic rejection of her childhood faith launches into the next three hundred pages which recount the tumultuous years that followed. Along the way readers are introduced to a number of interesting characters that pop in and out of Andrea’s life–Michael, the too-old and not-quite-divorced boyfriend; Will, the pot-smoking neighbor with a pet snake named Voltaire, among others.

The book is written in five parts which correspond to places from The Pilgrim’s Progress–Doubting Castle, Vanity Fair, the Slough of Despond, etc. This format works well and it gives Dilley’s story a clear beginning, middle, and end–something I find lacking in many faith memoirs which seem to go round in endless theological circles. She doesn’t end with all her questions answered and yet there is a feeling of solidity in her conclusion, a sense of being settled in faith.

To me, longing for God was like hearing music from an open window on the street or seeing mountains off in the distance. The yearning felt almost like grief. A cry born into my heart before the human heart ever existed. A desire so deep and far back that it seemed almost prehistoric. I sensed the imago Dei, the image of God within me. I was Plato’s child searching for the lost language of my origins. I was a homing bird traveling with my outspread wings, carried by an innate compass and crossing a thousand miles to get back to the place where it all began. {Page 235}

Dilley openly bares her faults, insecurities, and questions, and does so in a generous way; her writing never comes across as self-indulgent. She is smart, witty, and has a dry sense of humor which translates well on the page.

Once, while visiting my grandparents’ church in rural Pennsylvania, I had watched a middle-aged woman wearing light-ink stretch pants stand up for the special music part of the service and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with an exaggerated vibrato. American anthems should not be sung operatically in church by someone wearing stretch pants. Sitting in the front pew with my grandparents that morning, I thought cynically, This is the sort of thing that makes people want to become atheists. {Page 150}

As far as faith memoirs go, this is one of the better ones. I’d put it almost, if not exactly on par with Carolyn Weber’s Surprised by Oxford and in my book it definitely surpasses Sill, Lauren Winner’s most recent work. Highly recommended.

About Andrea Palpant Dilley:

Andrea grew up in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries and spent the rest of her childhood in the Pacific Northwest. She studied English literature and writing at Whitworth University. Her writing has appeared in various publications and her work as a documentary producer has aired nationally on American Public Television. She lives with her husband and daughter in Austin, Texas.

Other Reviews: Ruminate Magazine

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  1. says

    Just reading the quotes you posted and your review make me want to read this one. Her journey sounds similar to mine, leave home, reject religion, slowly find my way back….ugh!! To this day I still feel like Im trying to get back to that 8 year old faith of mine who had no questions……..:)

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