Atlas Girl

Today I’m excited to introduce you to a friend and fellow blogger, Emily T. Wierenga. Emily is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoirAtlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books)

Here’s Emily:

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Mum had said to sit close to the bus driver, so I sat as far away as possible.

And now an Ojibway man in a red bandana and stubble cheek was snoring on my shoulder.

He smelled like communion wine, the kind my father served in plastic cups which we slid empty into the pew’s tiny cup holders.

He smelled like beer, like the late August summers when I was entering puberty, cleaning up the Corn Fest fairgrounds in my Sunday dress with my family. The beer cans all clanging like empty songs against each other in their black garbage bags, and it was what good Christians did. Cleaned up after sinners’ parties and marched in pro-life rallies and it was always us, versus them. And all I ever wanted was to be them.

But always, we were taught to be kind to them, and so I let this man sleep on my shoulder in the Greyhound bus headed west while I tucked up my legs and tried to shrink inside my 18-year-old frame.

Tried to close my eyes against the cold of the window but it had been two days since I’d hugged my younger brother, Keith, and my sisters, Allison and Meredith; since Mum—whose name is Yvonne, which means beautiful girl— had held me to her soft clean cotton shirt and her arms had said all of the words she’d never been able to voice.

The Reverend Ernest Dow, or Dad, had loaded my cardboard boxes full of Value Village clothes onto the bus and kissed me on the cheek and smiled in a way that apologized. I was the eldest, and I was the first to leave. But then again, I’d left long before getting on that bus.

I’d slid my guitar, then, beside the cardboard boxes, its black case covered in hippie flower stickers and the address for the Greyhound depot in Edmonton, 40 hours away.

And we still weren’t there yet, and I hoped there would be mountains.

I should know, I thought. I should know whether or not there will be mountains.

My parents had raised us to believe in God, to believe in music, and to believe in travel.

We’d visited Edmonton as children, piled into our blue Plymouth Voyager and we’d driven from Ontario to California, no air conditioning, living off crusty bun sandwiches and tenting every night.

And there was Disneyland and the ocean and me nearly drowning because I was all rib. My body too tired to care. And we’d traveled home through Canada, through Edmonton, but all I remembered was the mall. West Edmonton Mall and how it had hurt me to walk its miles, thin as I was.

I was hospitalized soon after that trip. The submarine sandwiches hadn’t been enough to fill the cracks. But oh, how my parents taught us to love the open road. We caught the bug young, and here I was, and I couldn’t remember where the Rockies began and ended.

I scratched at the night as though it were frost on my window, but all I could see were the bright yellow lines on the highway, like dashes in a sentence, like long pauses that never ended.


This is an excerpt from my new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look, releasing July 1st through Baker Books.



Our own Heather Kopp says,

“This is the kind of spiritual memoir I love. The story is vulnerable, insightful, and artfully told. You know you’re in the hands of an expert writer–and yet you never feel like style is getting in the way of heart. I thoroughly enjoyed every word and didn’t want it to end.”

~ Heather Kopp, author of the memoir Sober Mercies


From the back cover:

“Disillusioned and yearning for freedom, Emily Wierenga left home at age eighteen with no intention of ever returning. Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents’ rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else–anywhere else. Her travels took her across Canada, Central America, the United States, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. She had no idea that her faith was waiting for her the whole time–in the place she least expected it.

“Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a very personal story of a universal yearning for home and the assurance that we are known, forgiven, and beloved. Readers will find in this memoir a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction. Anyone who wrestles with the brokenness we find in the world will love this emotional journey into the arms of the God who heals all wounds.”


I am excited to give away a copy of ATLAS GIRL today. Just leave a comment below to win.


I’m also giving away a FREE e-book to anyone who orders Atlas Girl. Just order HERE, and send a receipt to:, and you’ll receive A House That God Built: 7 Essentials to Writing Inspirational Memoir — an absolutely FREE e-book co-authored by myself and editor/memoir teacher Mick Silva.

Atlas Girl_700x175_2

ALL proceeds from Atlas Girl will go towards my non-profit, The Lulu Tree The Lulu Tree is dedicated to preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers. It is a grassroots organization bringing healing and hope to women and children in the slums of Uganda through the arts, community, and the gospel.
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including the memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Author: Heather Kopp at

Heather Kopp is an author and blogger who writes about the intersection of addiction and faith. Her memoir about her recovery, Sober Mercies, was published by Jericho, a new imprint of HBG (Hachette Book Group) in Spring 2013.

22 thoughts on “Atlas Girl”

  1. Today, I went to the beach with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it
    to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She
    placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.

    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely
    off topic but I had to tell someone!


  2. I am really looking forward to reading this book and entering into the world of the author. Any missives, blogs and people you recommend make it into my “should do” column. Pax Christi…..


  3. The buzz for “Atlas Girl” is building on several blogs and social media channels I follow. The brief excerpts I’ve read make my eyes fill and my heart tug. I must read more.


  4. I’m really looking forward to reading this! Thanks for sharing. My middle daughter (16 yrs old) is really struggling with her faith right now and this just may give me some insight, as she is also a PK. 🙂


  5. I loved this excerpt. She drip feeds the details of her background so gently to the reader, telling all, but in a lovely understated style. Great writing, I’m sure the book will do well.


  6. One of the things that always moves me is when someone goes from describing life as “it” and invites readers to inch down into the damp yet refreshing caves of authentic self disclosure. They aren’t afraid to make “me” and “I” statements. The prosaic appetizer you offered here reflects the heart of someone unwilling to bullshit. I like that. Heather you have an informal tribe of people who seem to have this as an ethic. And as an “Atlas Guy” be certain I’ll find this book and place it on the aged bed stand which is my informal altar to emerging truths… ready to inhabit a psyche and soul in recovery from a self-medicating alcohol addiction. I wonder if you know how vital the rocky path is you are inviting people to traverse. Or is there is at least a visceral sense of how much the Evil One hates it? Perfect love casts out fear. And the “way station” for fellow pilgrims you have created with your blog is a holy place…in the end. Pax Christi….


  7. Thank you For introducing me to Atlas Girl, I look so forward to reading it and passing it around my daughters and friends!


  8. I was engrossed in Emily’s writing from the start. Yes, you chose an amazing excerpt, Heather, for us to get wrapped up in. I also am grateful for the message today of going home. Thank you. Of course, I just ordered the book and can not wait to read.


  9. “a true description of living faith as a two-way pursuit in a world fraught with distraction” – I know it is the review, but I’ll be thinking on this line all day, hope to read the book


  10. i love this: : “And all I ever wanted was to be them. But always, we were taught to be kind to them.”
    such a yearning to be other than oneself, and such a struggle to be kind to self. Thanks for the heads up on a seeming great read!


  11. My favourite stories to read are ones like these. Having grown up a PK and then an MK these stories hit home. I am still trying to find my way, so it seems.


  12. What a tease this excerpt is. Like an intriguing television show that rather than finding it’s resolution the words “to be continued” appear on screen and you know you’re going to have to watch the ending. Very compelling, Heather. Thanks for sharing her story with us.


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