I’m not opposed to unsolicited requests to review a book. In fact, I’m honored and humbled when I receive them. I want to be helpful, and I have yet to turn down a request; however, after this one, I may not be so quick to accept.
Previously self-published and now on what I believe is its second revision and first publication through a small company (the Vox Dei branch of Booktrope), Mary Graziano Scro’s little book, Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation, is being prepped for final proofreading and print. After reading the 108-page .pdf (really only about 68 small pages of material), I wrote back to the manager to make sure I did not receive a draft and that I was really being asked to write a public review of the book. After reading my initial thoughts, concerns, and questions, I was sincerely thanked for my input and asked to go ahead with the review since there will be no changes to the book. So, I now proceed.
Let me begin by saying I have no doubt that Mary loves God, does the best she can to live daily for him, and wants to encourage others to do the same. That is not in question. I just don’t think reading this book is a good way to go about it.
My first concern was that, after now working with a publishing company and apparently revising a previously self-published work, an editor was not used for anything other than grammar (fine in that regard). There are several short sections within the book, none of which really seem to fit together. The lack of coherence in structure, format, content, and voice and never really addressing Working Out Your Salvation all lead me to believe Intentional Fitness was not a final product. I am uncertain of the intended audience; Scro uses jargon (Christianese, as sometimes called) understood by those steeped in a particular way of Christian life, but the content appears to shift between addressing non-Christians and brand-new Christians (even mid-paragraph), neither of which would likely understand Scro’s perspective and jargon. (There’s even a final section that explains the author’s perspective of how to be saved by “saying this prayer” or “ask Jesus for the words” without ever explaining why a nonbeliever would even want to do that. Why would they read the book in the first place?) Wrought with contradictions and the inclusion of haphazard and often unhelpful questions and statements at the end of each chapter (many in the vein of “look up this word online or in a concordance and pray with all those verses”), it reads like a poorly planned “Sunday school” lesson.
I have suggested that, perhaps, Scro may be better able to make her points through a well-organized memoir by sharing her experience and demonstrating how certain things have helped her along her journey rather than telling her audience “how it is” without the experience, knowledge, and/or authority to write about the given subjects. I do hope this is considered and the book is replaced.
*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid, nor was I asked to write anything specific, whether positive or negative.