The book Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers reflects on Life, Love, Sex and Other Mysteries landed on my desk last week, and I’ve hardly put it down since. The book is a collection of short essays, some only a few pages long, which were originally written for the online Catholic magazine godspy.com . Each essay is a reflection on life as a faithful Catholic and the unique challenges that such a life presents in today’s world.

At first, the essays might strike the reader as intentionally provocative or extreme. The collection, for example, never shies away from seemingly controversial topics: a story of a woman struggling to confess to her socialite friends that she’s a virgin, a reflection on the spiritual benefits of corporal mortification (in this case a daily ice-cold shower), the description of a young couple’s trials and tribulations with Natural Family Planning, or the autobiography of a woman grappling with her same-sex attraction.

All of these stories are written in a way that is brutally honest and sincere, but titillation or shock value doesn’t seem to be the point. Instead, these are candid reflections on faith in practice, and this is where the real value of the book is found.

By offering concrete examples of how faith changes the way one makes life’s most important decisions, Faith at the Edge gives young Christians a mature look at the less glamorous realities of a faith lived in the real world. The book never argues that faith makes life easier or less complicated; the essays hardly describe faith as some sort of therapy or self-help guide.

Instead, these young writers respond out of love and humility to the challenges in their lives by seeking to make not the easy choice, but the right one.