Book Review: Metanoia by Anna McGahan

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Words | Katelyn Free

Bear with me, because I know this won’t be for everyone (mainly because you have to purchase this book at Koorong), but Metanoia by Anna McGahan is the kind of book you read once in a while, that slyly sneaks past you and lodges its story deep beneath your ribs, close to your heart, without you even realising. 

I read it during the first week of this year, during a time that was far from emotionally peaceful, and found myself subtly seeking refuge within its pages and jarring honesty. A memoir about McGahan’s conversion to Christian faith (I know, I know, please bear with me), it narrates the story of her spiritual journey in partnership with the varied experiences of her physical body throughout her 30 years of living. 

While being an inherently spiritual book, you don’t necessarily have to agree with McGahan’s views about religion or faith to relate to this memoir – you need only be human. The raw emotional honesty with which McGahan discloses the darkest corners of her life, from deranged LSD trips, to cheating partners, to being a cheating partner – she bears her life with a confidence and vulnerability that invites the reader into a shared space where candour can heal and pain is made holy. 

McGahan doesn’t preach nor bash the reader with her story in order to produce a similar conversion, she tells her truth with a gentleness and patience that is respectful and creates a sense of trust between her and the reader. While the latter part of the book does feel a bit rushed in some respects, and the resolution a little clumsy, the emotional climax of the memoir happens much earlier and is given the right amount of time to settle and resolve within the reader, such that it leaves a stinging impact that can’t be ignored.

Metanoia brought me a sense of peace and understanding in what it feels like to be lost, to be a woman, to be drawn to self-destruction, to rally and rail against yourself, and to still hope for peace at the same time. McGahan tells a richly human story that fills each page with the same beautiful sentiment: you are not alone.