"Any Minute": a review of Joyce Meyer’s book

Any Minute is an inspirational novel written by Joyce Meyer and Deborah Bedford, published June 2009. It cannot be called a Christian novel. The premise is that the protagonist, Sarah Harper, is a barracuda on the Chicago Commodities Exchange floor and a whiz in forecasting futures for her financial firm. She drives a Lincoln, multi-tasks, pulls the long hours, and expects the little people to get out of her way.

Sarah’s husband, Joe, and her 8-year-old son Mitchell and baby Kate are increasingly making do without their mother at home, and when she is, she is cell phoning, computering, and texting, sometimes all at once. Sarah is important.

As the story unfolds, Joe is increasingly unhappy and actually, so is Sarah, but neither know what to do about the widening gulf between them, except retreat further into their respective positions after several clumsy attempts to find a middle ground. Mitchell is so unhappy that he sees an angel behind the scoreboard at Wrigley Field and spots him again as a homeless man on the street as his mother drags him along to the office for a day of “fun” and “bonding”. Cue the harps.

At the office, Sarah spies on her nanny through one of the gazillion placards pasted on every baby item they own, and Joe drops a wrench at his garage. He outfits Miatas for racing. Creepily, this nanny webcam is also open to any other person on the web and they may also not only spy on the child but post reports about what they see. Pedophiles are popping popcorn as I write.

After one particularly heated fight in which the “D” word was almost uttered and a sleepless night for all ensued, the next morning Sarah races off to work angry and driving like a maniac. Driving like maniac is what she always does, and as the story told us (not showed us, an amateur mistake in writer’s craft) she is called Mario Andretti at the office because of her penchant for ramming any vehicle that attempts to obtain her coveted parking space next to the elevator. You would think a senior analyst for a major brokerage firm would have an assigned space, but there you go. I am obviously numerically illiterate as well as corporately naive. But today Sarah is particularly maniacal, intent on proving her worth to all by analyzing numbers like no one ever has before, even if it means getting to the office first and jumping that river bridge that ominously has bells ringing on it and is on its way up. Thinking she can make it, Sarah drives past the lowering guard rails and accelerates, only noticing belatedly that she is driving uphill, which usually means in stories like these, that the bridge is being raised.

Aw, man, she almost made it!

But alas, gravity won the day and Sarah and her Lincoln plunged into the river and without so much as a glub glub, she and her status symbol sink like a stone.

The next scenes show Joe grief stricken and guilty that he hurled all those three or four angry words at her when he put up his hand and said “Excuse me. Your husband needs your attention.” Vicious man, he is. Now he will never have a chance to make it up. Meanwhile, Sarah’s last conscious thought as the cold and murky waters closed over her was “I’m in trouble.” Yes, you drove off a bridge. Trouble is the least of your troubles. Sarah awoke under a homemade quilt in her dead grandmother’s house in a place that glowed honey gold. Or maybe it was apple jelly gold. Or maybe it was sunshine gold. Anyway, it was gold. Also, it was peaceful. Sarah basked in the peacefulness where it felt like nothing was ever wrong. So immediately dispensing with eternal bliss, Sarah grabbed her cell phone so she could call her boss and tell him to tell the client that she would be late for the Eggs Benedict breakfast meeting. The cell phone said “Searching for signal.” I am not making this up. The angel of the Cubs Scorebard comes in and gently chides Sarah for thinking she could afford the roaming charges from this location. Just kidding. He came in and says “You really think that phone’s going to do you good in this place?”

Her grandmother and the Cubs Angel take Sarah on a tour of her life, her mother’s life, and her future life. As Sarah is shown her daughter Kate all grown up in college, studying hard and resisting the dastardly temptation to go bowling, Kate sighs and tells her roommate that she really wished she had a mom to talk to at times like this. Sarah, viewing the scene from above moans and wishes she hadn’t died. Here comes the emotional gut twister. Get ready. Here it is. It was a moment from the future with Sarah alive. Incredibly, Sarah would have continued to alienate her daughter and her relationship with her would have been in ruins even if she had not died. Man, I hadn’t seen that coming.

Back at the office, her co-workers flip a coin for her parking spot, and her boss gives her job to his son. Sarah, crestfallen, learns that life in the cutthroat commodities trading fast lane is, well, cutthroat. And that people don’t matter. Only money matters. The only person who says anything nice about her is her intern. He still wants a job at the firm.

She is given a chance to live again, and she undergoes a remarkable transformation after waking up in the hospital. She buys a cappuccino for the lady in front of her in line. She says hello to a homeless person. She only spies on her nanny three times in a day instead of 300. She says thank you to her intern. And, cue the music, Sarah decides to be real and genuine with everyone, especially her husband.

Review: you might have been able to tell that I am no fan of this book. I consider it subversive in doctrine and accommodating to feminism. As far as doctrine goes, the bible is clear, no person is allowed to talk to the dead. (Deut. 18:9-11) Having Sarah’s grandmother as a character that interacts with the living is an egregious doctrinal error and one that I found hard to get over.

As far as subtle doctrinal issues go, there was no mention of the sins of anger, greed, selfishness. There was no emphasis on the roles of each gender in the family, nor the importance of time spent with them instead of money being made for them. This is not surprising, Meyer’s last annual take was 95 million and she owns 5 homes and a $100,000 Mercedes-Benz. There was no mention of repentance. There was no mention of what kind of person Sarah had become and her new clarity that that was not God’s intent for women, mothers, or daughters. The most we got was a promise from Sarah to “be genuine” and a hurry up and get back to work-ethic.

Most important, one would expect that Sarah’s lifestyle of consumerism-accumulation on the back of betting on commodities prices was not the best as a mother. Rather than decide to raise her children herself, she simply decided to treat the nanny better. A request from her boss to stay at the office after 5pm was met with a threat to leave and start her own business, which anyone who has their own business knows, means more hours than she was even working at the outset of the book. Her boss looked at her with respect after making the threat, rather than pity her that she is missing yet another Cubs game with her son.

In one place in the book, Sarah’s grandmother tells her that “God wants you to be happy with yourself.” This notion is typical of the prosperity Gospel crowd where “it’s all about you.” God did not come to earth to make you feel better. He came to save you from your sins which any mention of was conspicuously absent from the book. Most people in the bible who were shown the unutterable glory of heaven fell on their face crying out to God their unworthiness, not reaching for their cell phone muttering they “probably didn’t belong here.” There was no sense of honoring God, no awe, no worship. No gratitude. Worse,  the only appearance of God was this stomach-crunchingly embarrassing conversation God had with the assigned angel:

“Mitchell Harper needs you,” said the Creator of the Universe. “Are you willing to help the boy?”
Yes,” Wingtip said. “You know how I feel about that kid. I’ll do anything.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, Lord.”
“Even if you have to leave your post at a crucial moment in the game?”

WHAT?! Yes, it would be a tragedy of incredible proportions of the Cubs’ Angel failed to be on hand for the score. Sigh. How demeaning of angels and of God.

At one point early on, Sarah mused that their chosen lifestyle was untenable and as a matter of fact, the more money they made it cost them more to keep it up. Car for status, and gas to propel it during the commute. Clothes befitting her station for meeting with clients. Nanny, babysitter. Large house, private school. I was expecting a transformation to include simplifying and streamlining these things with something that is seen all too little of these days: sacrifice. But there was not any sacrifice, not one iota. Except for her parking space.

Essentially, Sarah returned to her former life with a barely transformed personality. Certainly the event had not made a spiritual dent in herself or her relationship with Jesus. Compare that to the transformations of the woman at the well, Zaccheus, the Centurion, John the Baptist, Isaiah, John the Revelator or any other interaction in the bible between a sinner and either an angel or the Lord, and you see the sad circumstances Christian fiction has fallen to these days. The message of this book is ‘be genuine’. ‘Feel good about yourself’. And for heaven’s sake, let the Cubs win.