“Search” — A Book Review

Adam Lawrence Dyer
8 min readJun 16, 2023

“A Unitarian Universalist can believe anything.” — Michelle Huneven interviewed by Scott Simon for NPR (April 23, 2022)

When a dear and trusted friend of mine recently reached out to me and excitedly told me that I needed to read the book Search by Michelle Huneven, I winced at first and informed her that like many people in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) orbit, I had heard about the book but not read it…yet. Truth be told, I was actually engaged in a silent personal boycott of the piece for all of last year. Knowing that it was a thinly veiled retelling of an actual situation surrounding a ministerial search and the committee carrying out that search in one of our churches, I didn’t want to support the author or its success in any way. My feeling was that buying a copy was an endorsement of trading on personal relationships for profit. I literally study ethics for a living so that’s just not cool.

But as I currently spend up to 6 hours a week on the road between Charlottesville, VA and Laurel, MD, I was looking for something to put into my audiobook rotation after listening to Vine Deloria’s God is Red and Prince Harry’s Spare, so out of curiosity and knowing I had kind of already paid for it, I used my monthly Audible credit and downloaded it.

At the outset it felt like the perfect road warrior listening. It was a subject I knew well so I didn’t need to listen too closely and it was delivered in an entertaining, if almost caricature like UU voice (if there is a UU caricature voice) so it was mildly amusing as well. But very quickly, I realized that this was not just a book devoted to ‘telling tales out of school’ as it were, but that there might be something else more important than passing time on I-66 for me and others to get from this piece.

Being an academic, I relented and purchased a paperback copy, switched over and began diving in, pencil in hand.

There is no question that Search is a well written book. It is extremely flavorful (like the included recipes) and sits lightly on the palate. But I think it runs into problems when it hits the stomach. I’m not necessarily speaking to the craft and structure of the book, or even to the questionable ethics of the novel/memoir approach to the subject matter that is disturbingly meta (an actual food critic and novelist who…

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