Roose, Kevin. The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University. Grand Central Publishing, 2009. ISBN 978-0446178426 336 pp. $24.99
Roose, raised in the Quaker faith, decides to take a semester “abroad” from Brown at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, a Christian college with strict rules (hugs are not allowed to last more than 3 seconds). Passing as newly saved, he gets involved with a number of campus activities and holds in depth conversations about faith with students and staff, trying not to be noticed as a reporter or unsaved, even as he maintains ties to the secular world. Roose worked for A.J. Jacobs at Brown, the author of A Year of Living Biblically, and I thought this was going to be a sort of copycat book, but I think Roose made the project his own.
The narrative hooks the reader from the beginning as we follow Roose through the collegiate semester. Roose is even-handed and fair on top of being a good–not great–writer. There was humor and some surprises here. I am not sure it lead to further understanding of the Evangelical movement for me as a reader, but I appreciate the impact it had on Kevin, and the barriers he breaks down.
The phenomenon of Facebook accounts being limited by school make this seem dated to today’s readers; it doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that Facebook was changed so anyone can join, and Roose talks about maintaining personas on Brown and Liberty’s networks.