Sweet Heaven When I Die
Faith, Faithlessness, and the Country In Between
Linked narrative nonfiction from the best-selling author of The Family.
No one explores the borderlands of belief and skepticism quite like Jeff Sharlet. He is ingenious, farsighted, and able to excavate the worlds of others, even the flakiest and most fanatical, with uncanny sympathy. Here, he reports back from the far reaches of belief, whether in the clear mountain air of "Sweet Fuck All, Colorado" or in a midnight congregation of urban anarchists celebrating a victory over police.
From Dr. Cornel West to legendary banjo player Dock Boggs, from the youth evangelist Ron Luce to America's largest "Mind, Body, Spirit Expo," Sharlet profiles religious radicals, realists, and escapists. Including extended journeys published here for the first time, Sweet Heaven When I Die offers a portrait of our spiritual landscape that calls to mind Joan Didion's classic Slouching Towards Bethlehem.
- August 2011
- 5.9 × 8.6 in
/ 264 pages
- Territory Rights: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.
Endorsements & Reviews
“The book belongs to the tradition of long-form, narrative journalism best exemplified by writers such as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Norman Mailer and Sharlet’s contemporary David Samuels. Sharlet deserves a place alongside such masters, for he has emerged as a master investigative stylist and one of the shrewdest commentators on religion’s underexplored realms.” — Michael Washburn, The Washington Post
“For Sharlet, the story of American religion is not a polarized one of fundamentalists vs. secularists. It’s a vast landscape, and each essay in his remarkable new collection of literary journalism explores a different crag or cranny of it…. There’s no better guide to this ‘country in between.’” — Brook Wilensky-Lanford, The Boston Globe
“Superb… Compelling… Stunning… A fine book, by a deeply thoughtful writer.” — Steve Yarbrough, The Oregonian
“A Must-Read…. Brilliant portraits of the religious fringe…fleshed out in lush three-dimensional detail—a lifetime in a dozen pages, a biography distilled to its purest elements…. Sharlet impresses with his ability to mine the common humanity that lingers in even the most radically minded thinkers.” — The Daily Beast
“Sharp and intimate.” — Rolling Stone
“The characters in Sweet Heaven When I Die are rough, unfulfilled, often doomed. But that’s what makes this collection so strong, so human. We always suspect that by the end, they will be betrayed by their beliefs, will be disillusioned or destroyed. But failure doesn’t make belief meaningless. It may be the only thing that gives faith meaning at all.” — Kansas City Star
“[A] collection of beautifully written narratives.... Sharlet's previous works have incisively critiqued fundamentalism and American power; Sweet Heaven is equally thoughtful, but tender, acknowledging that between the extremes of snake handlers and nihilists, most of us wander through life groping for meaning, with consolation that in the act of finding, we too, may be found.” — Durham, NC Independent
“Part reporter, part prophet, Jeff Sharlet is an American visionary in the lineage that runs from Twain to Robinson Jeffers to Sam Shepard and Joan Didion. In Sweet Heaven When I Die, he scours the desert margins of our culture, politics, and religion, training his eye on outlaws, anarchists, fanatics, and saints. In this way, he reveals the unexpected shape of our nation’s center, which is to say, our heart.” — Peter Trachtenberg, author of 7 Tattoos and The Book of Calamities
A sweeping, five-decade history of the evangelical movement in southern California that explains an epochal realignment of American politics.More
"A potent wakeup call to pluralists in the coming showdown with Christian nationalists."—Publishers Weekly, starred reviewMore
Growing up Catholic in a family where the reforms of Vatican II are seen as the work of Satan.More