In her memoir Chaos and Cussing, Jenika Denery tells her story of a lifetime of chaos brought on primarily by poor choices but salvaged by calling on her faith to assist her with each obstacle.
Denery announces her vulnerability from the start: “Writing this makes me want to vomit,” she states. “I can’t see beyond my own exposure, and it leaves me anxious, insecure and completely terrified.” She pushes forward, regardless.
While at age ten she accepted Jesus as her savior, by high school she was already living a chaotic life of “boys, drugs, and cigarettes.” From there, she struggled further with drugs, chasing “no good” boys, and seeking risk and danger, along with the accompanying feelings of shame and worthlessness. Her redemption came through “running to God,” learning to “follow Him one step at a time.”
The author is admirably candid throughout, discussing a painful case of herpes at age 18, relationships with drug-addicted men, and more. Her self-reflection is refreshing (“I excelled at ignoring my true self,” she writes), and her writing can be remarkably colorful (“I . . . surely reeked of doubt and cigarettes”).
Yet the book doesn’t always flow smoothly, and the author’s continual backsliding becomes frustrating to read about. Additionally, sometimes Denery fails to dig deep enough, as in this superficial assessment of her and her new husband’s reason for leaving their church: “… after a couple years, we were hurt again for reasons we just couldn’t figure out.”
Finally, the author’s name doesn’t appear on the book’s cover, and readers don’t learn it until a passing mention of her first name on page 38. The table of contents is inaccurate, and the manuscript requires copyediting to avoid typos and sentences like: “I was devoid losing that baby.”
Denery is honest and sincere. With some careful revision, her story could overcome these issues and inspire a wide Christian audience.