BOOK REVIEW: NOT KNOWING BUT STILL GOING by JOCELYN-ANNE HARVEY
‘Are we nearly there yet?’ For anyone who has ever transported young children on a car journey of any length those words will be alarmingly familiar. And yet put yourself in that poor child’s place for a moment. Strapped into a moving vehicle with no idea exactly where you are going, how long it will take, and what you are going to find at the other end; that is, with no control whatsoever. A child in that situation has only one option- to trust the adult driving the car – that they know where they are going, how long it will take, and what is at the other end of the journey.
For many of us life feels a bit like that at the moment. Uncertainties surround us on every side. How long is this pandemic going to last? What are the easing of restrictions going to mean for us and our loved ones? Is everyday life coming out of this going to look very different? What about vaccines and variants, and foreign travel, and homeworking, and schooling, and exams, and church? The questions are endless.
It is into this world of uncertainty that a great new book by Jocelyn-Anne Harvey comes, with such a timely message. ‘Not Knowing But Still Going’ is an exploration of the story of Noah’s Ark, from the perspective of those who travelled in it, the women in particular. If ever a journey was uncertain and an outcome unknown, it was the voyage of the Ark.
Jocelyn- Anne does a marvellous job of getting us to imagine what life pre-flood, life on the Ark, and life post- flood might have been like, by fictionalising parts of the story, including giving those nameless wives names of their own. I love the cover of this book, it is beautifully designed, but what really caught my attention was the strategically placed washing line! I love that, because in reality the Ark was much more than a floating zoo, or an escape ship, it was those women’s domestic world, their home, for over a year. In that Ark they had to cook and prepare food, for themselves as well as the animals, they had to make comfortable places to sleep and rest, and they would have had to do the washing! Although it probably wouldn’t have been hung outside to dry! How did they cope? Not just with the enormous job of keeping them all fed and cared for (animals included), and living with the in- laws in close proximity in the most strict of lockdown bubbles! But also with the realisation of what the flood meant to mankind. How would it have felt to know that they were the only survivors, and that life, and even the earth itself was going to look very different when they emerged from the Ark? And they were going to be responsible for repopulating the earth, and with only each other to rely on? They had no control over any of this, and no real idea of what any of it was going to look like.
I love animals, but I could not imagine being shut in with a whole menagerie for all that time. In a sense Jocelyn-Anne creates a veritable menagerie of complimentary ideas with her writing. Alongside the fiction and the imaginings there is a wealth of wisdom. Her knowledge of scripture is evident and she uses it very well. She also applies things that she has learnt from her own life experiences and these add real weight to the book (I’d have liked more of these – some stories left me hanging!). It is also rich in other well researched detail about the geography of the earth pre- and post flood, the construction of the ark, changes in weather and diet after the flood. Some things take you by surprise- like getting up in the night and stepping on an escaped snake in the dark would! And others require you to examine your pre-conceived ideas and think more deeply on these things. You may find you struggle with some points of theology or supposition, but it certainly does make you question and go back to the Bible, and that is a very good thing.
The book is divided up into chapters that follow the story of the flood, tackling such subjects as: working with what you know, not pleasing people but leaning into God, being content in the waiting, sensing when new windows are opening, and the importance of family. Ultimately Jocelyn- Anne shows us how it is possible to keep going without knowing, trusting God to know what He is doing, and living the way He would want us to do, amidst the uncertainty. It is aimed primarily at women, and the author does celebrate particularly the way God sees and honours women, which I appreciated greatly. Throughout the book, the author challenges the reader to think and apply things to their own life and experience. I particularly loved that each chapter ends with a really helpful prayer, and some questions as an aid to thinking more. The book even provides blank pages for journaling, if you can bear to write on the pages of a pristine new book!
This is a great debut book from an imaginative and obviously well- read writer. If anything, I found it almost too rich. I read it through fairly quickly so that I could review it as part of Jocelyn- Anne’s blog tour, but I know I am going to have to go back to it, and re-read certain parts again. And maybe, just maybe, bring myself to write something on those empty journaling pages!
Not Knowing But Still Going by Jocelyn- Anne Harvey was published by Instant Apostle on 21st April 2021 and is available from all good bookshops or from a variety of online shops including: Foyles, Waterstones, Aslan , Eden, Amazon Amazon US and The Book Depository (this has worldwide free shipping).
Jocelyn-Anne loves the Lord, learning and literature. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester, and her flash fiction has been published. Having taken the leap from her senior HR role in the UK Government, Jocelyn-Anne can identify with those walking through uncertain times, and she is passionate about supporting others through theirs and helping them develop. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in a coffee shop with friends, exploring coastal paths or trying out recipes.