The Believer: Encounters with the Beginning, the End, and our Place in the Middle (Hardcover)
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March 2022 Indie Next List
“This strange, endearing book is unconventional. The stories are told piece by piece instead of all at once, mirroring the author's experience and challenging us to think hard about what we believe. I’ll think about this one for a while.”
— Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
A New Yorker Best Book of 2022
A Best Book of the Month at The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Deeply beautiful, and never simple.” —James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History
An unforgettable tour of the human condition that explores our universal need for belief to help us make sense of life, death, and everything in between.
For Sarah Krasnostein it begins with a Mennonite choir performing on a subway platform, a fleeting moment of witness that sets her on a fascinating journey to discover why people need to believe in absolute truths and what happens when their beliefs crash into her own. Some of the people Krasnostein interviews believe in things many people do not: ghosts, UFOs, the literal creation of the universe in six days. Some believe in things most people would like to: dying with dignity and autonomy; facing up to our transgressions with truthfulness; living with integrity and compassion.
By turns devastating and uplifting, and captured in snapshot-vivid detail, these six profiles of a death doula, a geologist who believes the world is six thousand years old, a lecturer in neurobiology who spends his weekends ghost hunting, the fiancée of a disappeared pilot and UFO enthusiasts, a woman incarcerated for killing her husband after suffering years of domestic violence, and Mennonite families in New York will leave you convinced that the most ordinary-seeming people are often the most remarkable and that deep and abiding commonalities can be found within the greatest differences.
Vivid, unconventional, entertaining, and full of wonder, The Believer interweaves these stories with compassion and empathy, culminating in an unforgettable tour of the human condition that cuts to the core of who we are as people, and what we’re doing on this earth.
About the Author
Sarah Krasnostein is a writer and lawyer with a doctorate in criminal law. Born in Charlottesville, Virginia, she divides her time between Melbourne and New York. Sarah’s first book, The Trauma Cleaner, won Australia’s Victorian Prize for Literature, where it was a runaway bestseller.
Generous and compassionate. . . . Her talent for penetrating intimate settings and eliciting personal testimony is impressive. The profiles are fascinating.
— The Washington Post
— The New Yorker
The Believer succeeds at its goal of bridging distances, of transcending the self to comprehend the other.
— NPR Books
A fascinating portrait of the human condition, Sarah Krasnostein’s latest explores a range of belief systems through six profiles—of a death doula, a geologist, a ghost-hunting neurobiologist, ufologists, a woman accused of murder, and Mennonite families living in New York. A great read for our ‘deeply fractured times.’
Explores the power of belief by weaving together six profiles of people who believe in ghosts and gods and flying saucers, people with whom Krasnostein has very little in common.
— The Rumpus
This is a must-read if you love these kind of journalistic deep-dives into Characters with a capital C. . . . You get that very rare experience of feeling like you understand other people a little bit better.
— What's Nonfiction
Fans of Jon Ronson’s. . . . will appreciate this collection of interviews with interesting people who believe interesting things.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Compassion and curiosity permeate
Sarah Krasnostein’s writing. Every few pages there is a line so
poignant it takes my breath away.
— Sasha Sagan, author of For Small Creatures Such As We, Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World
Sarah Krasnostein takes us on an unexpected journey through strains of belief that range from dubious to bizarre. It is sometimes disconcerting, sometimes deeply beautiful, and never simple.
— James Gleick, author of Time Travel: A History
Sarah Krasnostein holds a mirror to the world we inhabit but don’t fully understand, helping us see how our lives are shaped by beliefs at once wholly strange and unexpectedly familiar. Lyrical, haunting, endlessly curious, The Believer will restore your faith in the power of stories to bridge the gaps between us.
— Peter Manseau, author of The Apparitionists
In an era when it often appears as though beliefs are our biggest dividing lines, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer comes as a great tonic—a thoughtfully reported, entertaining, and empathetic examination of the beliefs that sustain yet sometimes dangerously mislead. Exacting yet compassionate, she takes readers deep inside communities and lives that may be distant from us, offering portraits that refract back on our own worlds. The result feels deeply wise. If reading a book can make you more human, The Believer does just that.
— Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir
Sarah Krasnostein’s The Believer is filled with everything the world needs more of: compassion, curiosity, and tenderness. Krasnostein brilliantly shows us how to look more carefully, listen more closely, and love more expansively. A complicated, lyrical portrait of belief, meaning making, and the stories we tell that might save us.
— Sarah Sentilles, author of Stranger Care
This collection of essays will be great for groups looking for something approachable but thoughtful as Krasnostein explores all kinds of strangers’ beliefs about the afterlife, a higher power, and everything in between and what happens when their beliefs clash with the beliefs of others. It’s definitely a poignant piece for today and will open up lots of discussion possibilities for book groups.
— Book Riot
An illuminating meditation on the nature of belief and the quest for meaning.
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Brimming with poetic hope. . . . The Believer is an outstanding treatise on human relationships, with one another and the unexplained.
— Shelf Awareness, Starred Review