Keeping Place: Reflections on the meaning of home
Jen Pollock Michel
Review by Kevin Koop
What is the subject?
Jen Pollock Michel’s recent book, Keeping Place is about the longing for home that we each experience. In a bygone era, her book would have be sanctimoniously given to pastor’s wives and ladies Bible study groups, but Jen Pollock Michel pushes the conversation beyond its traditional boundaries, and it’s a good thing.
Who is the author?
Jen Pollock Michel, an expat American author currently making her home in Southern Ontario. Someone who uses her own experience of moving numerous times as a child and as an adult to explore what it is to be at home.
Why this book?
My parents still live in the house they bought a year before I was born. Up until two years ago, I lived the entirety of my life within a 100km area. I often took that stability for granted, and I’ve been encouraged to learn that it’s more the exception than the rule. The concept of what it means to be at home, what it means to make a home, and what it means to be a stranger in search of a place to belong, drew me to the title and the book.
Comment on the book’s theological perspective in light of the MB Confession of Faith.
The book fits squarely within our theological framework. Though at times she pushes some traditional theological boundaries, more often than not Pollock Michel invites the reader to explore the concept of home within existing ideas about who God is.
Theologically speaking, one of God’s chief roles is that of homemaker, in that he has provided and continues to provide a place for all of us to live. In that sense, men are just as much “home makers” as women. As God’s image bearers, it stands to reason that the most important place for any individual to live out their faith is within their home. Practically speaking, doing dishes is as important in God’s mind to the work of his kingdom as preaching a sermon or sharing our faith with a neighbour.
Pollock Michel begins many chapters with wonderful vignettes of home from her near and distant past. She also demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of the topic she explores.
At times, however, between her exploration of sources and her own story, the book feels disjointed. I hoped for a better integration of the two, and I was also looking for more from Pollock Michel’s own perspective. I would have preferred her to write more with her own voice, because when she does, the book comes more fully together.
Other relevant information:
Since Pollock Michel quotes such a wide variety of other authors, Keeping Place is perhaps better viewed as a starting point to explore the topic of home instead of a place to find all the answers. Her references are impeccably cited in the notes at the end so the journey can continue beyond the pages of her book.
The book also includes a five-week study guide with insightful and open-ended questions that would work well for small group study (perhaps a men’s study group).
Who should read it?
Anyone searching for home, which is to say, all of us.
“God calls each of his children to a life that coheres in love. In the ambitious choreography of our days, we must fully consecrate every bead of sweat, wherever it falls – home or office, factory or school – to the glory of Christ and the good of our neighbour. Each of us, male and female, shares in the responsibility for home.”
“Because God made a material world for material beings, calling it very good, home – if we are to mean the word in its most biblical sense-must be a place. Place was one of God’s first gifts to his people.”
“The gospel is hope for the perished things and home for all who grieve.”
—Kevin Koop is pastor at Crestwood MB Church, Medicine Hat, Alta.
Updated Oct. 16, 2017