Book Notes: Death by Minivan



Let me introduce to you a small bookie love affair I’ve been having. Like when you were a teenager and dreamed of the guy who was the right balance of charm, humour, depth, and adventure, Death By Minivan is the book love you need right now.

All boisterous credit goes to author Heather Anderson Renshaw in her matter-of-fact way of approaching family life. She is full of all the self-pointed humour we moms need to get through the day — both a challenge and a relief in one breath!

Death By Minivan is a reflection of the mom life and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. If you feel you’ve been lagging behind on pursuing holiness (*raises hand*), Heather invites us into her minivan on a ride of searching for God, one spiritual virtue at a time. She shares her own failings while continuing to get up and drive that darned van again into the holiness lane. Humour, wit, and honest reflection accompany this charismatic book.

Yes – You’re Not the Only One!

One of the best parts of this book was reading all the foibles and follies Heather herself has encountered as she bounced and bumped upon on this path to holiness. I found I was not only just reading it, but I was being bounced and bumped as I read through her adventures. Each chapter is pleasantly shaped into a reflection on life as a mom in dialogue with the virtues and where God is leading us. This dialogue has lots to do with what God is doing and how we respond to it. She offers some reflections on ‘roadblocks’ that we can encounter while pursuing each virtue, followed by a prayer, Scripture quotes, and saint quotes – all to help us on our way. Queue in some action ideas, and some reflection questions (great set up for book clubs!) at the end, and these wonderfully crafted chapters have the meat to feed you while laughing. Just don’t chew with your mouth open.

I think most of us moms can relate to making peace with a saint we didn’t originally identify with (Heather’s is St. Therese of Lisieux, I’d say mine has been Mary) and discovering what that saint has actually been offering us to help us grow in holiness. Or realising along with Heather that, “I used to think love was all about good feelings, but then my six-month-old threw up on me.” (p 31). I know I’ve had my fair share of spew, and not just from six-month-olds! The challenge of love changes and grows every year!

Just recently, I hosted a Catholic Mamas 80s Dance Party at my place for the few friends that could make it. I’ve been going through a long and tough season having to deal with my own sexual abuse from when I was younger, and I realised that it’s been…years?…since I’ve rolled on the floor laughing. I needed an outlet for fun. My experience echoed Heather’s when she wrote about times when “I simply forgot to enjoy myself. Forgot to laugh. Forgot to enjoy my children or much else, actually.”(p 119).

Each chapter has spoken to seasons in my life, some of which I’m thankful to say are done for now, other ones in which I’m still in the trenches, and also seasons that I look forward to enjoying once I’ve worked on mastering some skills. But perhaps the chapter that spoke to me most was the chapter on Patience:

‘You have quite the good little helper there,’ the cashier said with a cheery voice, indicating my son. I looked over at Kolbe, who, task completed, was happily investigating the candy bars near the register. The cashier’s comment smacked me across the face as I realized that, yes – yes, he was a good helper. He wasn’t throwing an internal fit over unloading boxes of cereal and milk and applesauce on the wrong conveyor belt and having to reload them in the basket and unload them again; that was all me.

Oh gosh, that internal fit describes me very well. And others might not notice my tantrum, but I certainly can feel that tension of anger and frustration building within my own body. You’ll know the feeling too: muscles that clench, teeth that grind, blood rushing to your face. That story of Jesus telling the Pharisees about how what’s on the inside is what makes one unclean, not on the outside, is my own smacked face reaction here. And in the midst of convicting me in my own sins, Heather’s right there along with me sharing much more publicly than I that she, too, struggles with these virtues.

I am not alone on this narrow road, in my minivan, struggling trying to ensure the vehicle will fit on the road, the tires aren’t flat, and that there’s enough gas in the tank. Not even to mention the kiddos packed with me on this road to holiness. I am in the company of Heather and, if the eleven well known people who endorsed her book at the front are any indication that this path to holiness is not just me but many, then I have found company on this worthy journey.

Death By Minivan is wonderfully light and bravely walks with us on our own journeys to become saints in God’s kingdom. It is a perfect book to accompany you on your Advent journey, preparing yourself for Christ’s entry into the world and our own hearts, and would make a fabulous Christmas gift to any mama out there struggling to be a saint amidst ordinary life.

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Copyright 2018 Jane Korvemaker


About Author

Jane Korvemaker loves food, family, wine, and God (perhaps not in that order). She holds a Certificate in Culinary Arts, which pairs perfectly with her Bachelor in Theology. A former Coordinator of Youth Ministry, she writes from the beautiful and cold province of Saskatchewan, Canada. She works from home and takes care of her three very hard-working children. Jane regularly blogs at


  1. What a great review! I haven’t had the chance yet to read this book–but your encouragement to read it for Advent seems just right. Thank you.

    • Thanks Tami! Heather does a spectacular job marrying virtues with everyday motherhood in such a light-hearted and fun way.

      I really appreciated the extras at the end of the chapter that pushed me from just contemplation into action 🙂

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