A River Could Be a Tree

Told with warmth, humor, and a multitude of religious and philosophical insights, A River Could Be A Tree traces a seemingly impossible journey of faith, family and friendship.

How does a woman who grew up in rural Indiana as a fundamentalist Christian end up a practicing Jew in New York? Angela Himsel is the seventh of eleven children from a family that belonged to an evangelical branch of Christianity — the Worldwide Church of God. Strict adherence to the church’s tenets, which forbade make-up, medicine, and other demonic influences, was the only way for her to receive the Holy Spirit and live forever in God’s Kingdom.

In search of salvation, Angela decided at nineteen to study at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. But instead of strengthening her faith, she was introduced to a thrilling new world. And she began to think that maybe everything she had been taught was wrong. Both exciting and agonizing, those three words – maybe I'm wrong – set her on a completely different path. Ultimately, the connection to God she relentlessly pursued was found in the most unexpected place: a mikvah on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This devout Christian girl found her own form of salvation—as a practicing Jewish woman.






"angela Himsel’s memoir of her conversion to Judaism is a beautiful read”


Kirkus Review

"Candid and insightful. . ."


“…thoughtful and controlled…sympathetic and often moving.”

- forewordreviews.com

21 Best New Memoir Books to Read in 2019


“Fascinating, informative and well written…”


I highly recommend reading how Angela falls in love with being Jewish, being Orthodox, and finds the courage to act on her convictions.

“fluently written and tinged with wit”

Tulsa Book Review

"Told with warmth, humor, and a multitude of religious and philosophical insights, A River Could Be A Tree traces a seemingly impossible journey of faith, family and friendship."

- Gabrielle Selz, Author of Unstill Life

"Inspiring and brave, A River Could Be a Tree defines what we all need in some way—the freedom to discover our own unique path in life and the courage to choose it. Throughout Angela's journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening, we recognize beauty in the uncertainty of life. Her ability to illuminate this is a true gift to her readers, and her story serves as a powerful reminder that we don’t have to settle for what is expected of us. We can all find pieces of ourselves reflected in this delightful memoir."

- Ruth Wariner, author of The New York Times bestseller, The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir


"In A River Could Be a Tree, Angela Himsel falls in love with Judaism, and we fall in love with her. Her passion, humor, and curiosity shine through as she discovers it isn't the answers that give life meaning, but the quest for answers and the people met along the way."

- Charlotte Rogan, author of The Lifeboat


"Angela Himsel’s memoir A River Could Be a Tree is one woman's incredible journey down the proverbial road to Damascus, except that Angela's conversion was more process than presto. This coming of age memoir takes the reader from the faith of a childhood immersed in the Worldwide Church of God, to Orthodox Jewish New York, by way of Israel and Germany. Angela traces her genealogical and theological roots, in a search for identity and connection, and gives her readers stories of heartbreak, humor, longing, and love."

- Lucia Greenhouse, author of fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science


"Adherents to any faith know well that religion can be both constricting and fulfilling at the same time. And at the core of everyone’s spiritual journey is a belief that we are all seekers, searching for something deeper beyond ourselves. Himsel eloquently embodies this notion in her compelling new memoir. In often raw and engaging fashion, she takes her readers along for the ride—through love, loss, and religious rearrangement—to a conclusion that is both satisfying and enlightening."

- Benyamin Cohen, author of My Jesus Year: A Rabbi’s Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith


"Honest, yet humane, Himsel masterfully describes her spiritual walk along life’s long-narrow bridge from an impoverished childhood in rural Indiana with parents fiercely devoted to an apocalyptic cult, and ending in the embracing warmth of the Jewish community of the Upper West Side. Her journey is a testament to the importance of having no fear. In this regard, Himsel is not just a force of nature; she’s the Mary Karr (author of The Liar’s Club and Lit) of Indiana."

- Mort Zachter, author of Dough: A Memoir, winner of the AWP Award


"A River Could Be a Tree is a riveting, intimate memoir of growing up in rural America in a family of eleven children with a father who is an avid follower of an Evangelical Christian sect. With boundless curiosity and rigorous erudition, Angela Himsel navigates a spiritual life while deftly melding the personal with the compelling realities of life in a cult and cultural norms in other religions. Sprawling several religious worlds, this tragicomic memoir is spellbinding."

- Eva Fogelman, author of Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust