And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': April 2009

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Book Review (by Matt McKechnie)
AUTHOR: Susan Isaacs
BOOK: 'Angry Conversations With God -
A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir'
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In this life, our personal stories are supernaturally significant.
In Susan Issacs' intensely personal book 'Angry Conversations
With God – A Snarky But Authentic Spiritual Memoir', the
reader is led down the fragrant road of a very colourful story
about a woman trying to get to the centre of her spirit. Thinking
that the end of her rope was going to be reached in New York
at age 40 (after a series of massive life- letdowns and broken
relationships), Susan re-counts the detailed process of finding
an ex-pastor hippie therapist to deal with the re-construction
of her soul.

Speaking of stories, another wrinkle that makes this book all
the more interesting for me is the prong of another story that
entails how I came to cross paths with Susan. In my younger
years, I spent a lot of time watching movies (especially within
the realm of John Hughes comedies). A movie that was very
pivotal for me was 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles' starring
John Candy and Steve Martin. Martin plays Neil Page – a
conservative, tightly wound businessman from Chicago. Candy
plays Del Griffith – a jovial salesman who loves people and
the scent of the open road. In the story, though, I was always
confused about the sad plot of Griffith's wife as she is
somewhat of a present character in the film but is only ever
seen in a bedside photo that Del keeps close. There was
something that drew me in about that picture…but I couldn’t
put my finger on what it was. Regardless of the mystery,
though – I went on. I lived life. I grew up. From time to
time, I would see the film on TBS or another channel and
wonder about the mysterious, friendly-looking woman in
the picture. Some years later, after continuing down the path
of writing and journalism, I worked as a writer and editor for
the Burnside Writer’s Collective based out of Portland,
Oregon (for which Susan was also writing). Googling every
name I found within the collective, I googled Susan’s only to
find out she was a professional actor among many other
things. I clicked on to IMDB to see what films she’d been in
and that’s when I saw that she had acted in ‘Planes, Trains
and Automobiles’. I got kind of excited because I loved that
movie and knew every face in the film like the back of my
hand. I started thinking about which character I thought she
might be – and then I saw her picture online. It was her –
the mysterious lady I’d wondered about for years – Del
Griffith’s wife. I contacted her immediately and we’ve become
acquaintances/e-friends ever since.

Going deeper from my initial meeting with Susan (and due
to the personal nature of this book), I found myself gaining
a wealthier understanding of her while reading it. In
re-counting the woes and hardships of her professional acting
career (in a lot of films I owned on VHS), she bluntly talks
about the harsh downside of the limelight - and how all of her
scenes were cut from the final version of Planes, Trains and
Automobiles. My jaw dropped in revelatory spasm when I read
that line. Susan’s writing style is raw, as she holds back nothing
from her personal experiences. Her narrative includes
everything from guilt-flagged sexuality to running through
the streets of her Californian suburb in a state of lunacy after
hearing about John Lennon’s death. It’s political – it’s powerful
– it’s personal. She curses at God and He curses back at her. But
for all of her ornately-detailed accounts of coffee/rock
church-shopping and odd-duck Christian finding, she finds out
that there is an upshot.

I’m glad to call myself an acquaintance of Susan and to have
gained a greater grasp of her life from reading this book. There
was always a calm, re-assuring notion about her picture in that
film that was endearing to me as a kid. Little did I know that I
would one day meet that very, same lady in the photo. In the
book, Susan stumbles toward re-connecting with God in
couples’ therapy by remembering the good things He’s done
and the presence of His work in her life. Maybe all of that time,
while she struggled through acting and many other woes, her
picture was a way of God telling me (a little boy in Canada) to
never forget faces and to always invest into relationships.

Having been an English major for four and a half years of my
life, I’m still not at a place where I want to read on a casual
basis. ‘Angry Conversations With God’ made me want to start
reading for pleasure again.

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