Redeemed: Stumbling Towards God, Sanity, and the Peace That Passes All Understanding, by Heather King. Over the weekend I made some decisions about how I'll run the Catholic Book Club in the future, so please stay tuned to the end of this post for all the exciting details! (well, at least I consider them exciting ;-))
Ok, so Redeemed. This was a very quick read for those of us who love spiritual memoirs. Here's what I liked:
The author is obviously an excellent writer, and she has a sense of humor. These are two things that pretty much seal my loyalty to a writer for life, and which some spiritual memoirs lack. She also tackles tough issues with raw honesty and humility. Multiple abortions, alcoholism, divorce, the death of a parent, all of these are addressed in this author's story.
She is also an adult convert to the faith, and I find these stories terribly interesting, since they are so different from my experience as a cradle Catholic. As well, the author talks a lot about her enjoyment of spiritual retreats and reading, and how these factored into her conversion and growth as a new Catholic, topics that are near and dear to my heart. She is also a former lawyer (like yours truly!) who gave it up to pursue what she loved: writing. Fascinating stuff.
What I didn't like *as* much about this book as compared to other spiritual memoirs that I re-read so often that they are in dilapidated condition, is that she doesn't present her story in a chronological way. The chapters are sorted by topic (although they are not labeled as such), and the timeline bounces around a lot from before her conversion to after. My favorite kinds of spiritual memoirs go something like this: this is me when I was an atheist/Wiccan/Protestant/whatever, this is how my heart was turned on to the Catholic Church, this is the path that I took into the Church and the issues I had to deal with along the way, and this is me now as a Catholic. This book wasn't like that. It has more of a "literary," sophisticated feel to it, which of course isn't a bad thing, it's just different from what I usually favor.
Heather King has written stand-alone books on some of the topics that she mentions in Redeemed in the context of her conversion. So for in-depth treatment of these issues, you could consult those. Parched: A Memoir, is about her battle with alcoholism, and there is also Poor Baby: A Child of the 60's Looks Back on Abortion.
Overall I really enjoyed reading the book and I would read other books by Heather King. I don't know that this will go into my "keeper/will re-read" pile, but I'm glad that I read it. And this leads us into a related topic...
Ok, so, the Catholic Book Club. This is a fairly new idea on this blog (although I did write a lot about books before, I never formalized my discussion of them) and what I've done so far is review spiritual books as I finish them and give them their own tag for easy reference. I did post that summer reading list so that others could get ideas for new books and read along with me if they chose, but I didn't really provide any detail on which book I would be reading when. I just figured some readers would enjoy the book reviews.
This weekend, I got to thinking. Yes, sometimes that happens uninterrupted, even for mothers of children as chatty as mine. :) I would LOVE to host a *real* online book club of Catholic books. We could read a book at the same time each month and then discuss it on a given day. Not only would this be fun for interested readers, but it would keep me on track and accountable with my spiritual reading. Right now I just feel kind of loosey goosey with my spiritual reading, and I feel guilty if I start reading a fiction title because I don't want to go too long without a Catholic Book Club post. This is the lot in life of Type A Catholic librarians. We turn worry into an aerobic activity and want to hyper organize everything.
What all of this means is that we're going to set a regular monthly date with Catholic Book Club. Let's aim for the 4th week of every month, how about Wednesdays? Those are usually good days for me. This obviously won't work for every single month, but that's what we'll aim for, and I'll announce needed date changes as applicable. So our first date will be September 25, 2013.
I have posted the first 3 months worth of books, and the dates that I will post my review, in a widget along the right sidebar of the blog. I put it up real high, right below my "About Me" link, so that it's easy to find. On each review date, I'll post about the book, and you all chime in with your comments. :) I'm totally open to us finding an additional way to converse about the books, whether it be on Twitter or some other form of social media, we'll play that by ear. If you have suggestions, either for how we should discuss the books, or for books that you'd like to read as part of the club, do post your comment!
The September book that we'll be reading is The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality: A Drink Called Happiness. I chose this because I've been getting back into my vocation as a Third Order Dominican lately and my interest in this topic has been insatiable, plus my dearest budding Dominican friend Cristina from Filling My Prayer Closet recommended the book to me, and so I know that I'll have at least one participant in the book club's first month, ha! :) I ordered my copy over the weekend (no Kindle version available on this one) and I anticipate starting to read within the week.
In October we're returning to Heather King to read Shirt of Flame: A Year With St. Therese of Lisieux, perfect for St. Therese's feast day that month, as well as the feast of the Carmelite founder St. Teresa of Avila. My copy of In Him Alone Is My Hope, by Pope Francis, finally arrived after a wait time at the publisher of several months, and I'm dying to get to that one, so I slated it for November. It's a meditation on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius (if you're a Jesuit fan, definitely join us for this one!), and I thought it would be a great lead-up to Advent.
After that, I'm open to suggestions! I'm pleased to note that of the 7 titles I listed on my summer reading list, I have read 4 of them. Two others are included within these next 3 months of the Catholic Book Club. I have more spiritual reading on my bookshelf, as well as on my Kindle, but I can *always* use fresh material. Each month, after we discuss a book, I'll update the Catholic Book Club reading list on the sidebar to include a fresh title for 3 months hence. Keep the suggestions coming!
I am VERY excited about this, and I hope that you are too! Write to me with your thoughts. :)