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Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

With his signature sardonic humour, Evelyn Waugh takes aim at the hypocrisy, corruption, artifice and pettiness that underpins the English class system and public education in the early twentieth century. Set at a boarding school in Wales, Waugh pulls away the curtain of pretense to reveal a set of deeply flawed characters and misfits, who populate a narrative that reads…

Book Review: Southernmost by Silas House

Repulsed by the judgmental attitudes and bigotry of his church, and experiencing a crisis of faith, Pentecostal pastor Asher Sharp decides that plunging into the unknown is more life-giving than sticking with the stability of home. The arrival of two gay men to his Tennessee town and the Christian community’s homophobia compel Asher to confront his wife and church, as…

Book Review: Playing Left Wing — From Rink Rat to Student Radical by Yves Engler

Memory is a peculiar thing. I attended Montreal’s Concordia University during the same years as Yves Engler. Reading his book — part memoir, part explanation of what may draw Canadian youth to embrace radical activism — brought long forgotten memories to the surface, including events that seemed so momentous at the time and once consumed my thoughts, but which nearly…

Book Review: In Evil Hour by Gabriel García Márquez

Set in a sweltering Colombian town during the 1950’s, In Evil Hour explores life in a repressive regime, once the dictatorship transitions from an initial period of overt political violence to the “peaceful” consolidation of power. This tenuous peace, however, is built on censorship and self-censorship, and on the exhausted acquiescence of its residents.  The town’s dull stability is punctured by…

Book Review: Waiting for God by Simone Weil

Tortured by a scrupulous desire for intellectual honesty, struggling with the paradoxes of Catholicism and attentive to the quiet presence of the neglected, Simone Weil is among the most compelling Catholic thinkers of the twentieth century. Weil’s vocation was to remain on the margins of the institutional Church. Waiting for God, published posthumously in 1951, is a raw work. One…

Book Review: Wanted by Chris Hoke

This book isn’t about a pastor’s triumphant journey into jail to teach inmates and preach about salvation. Rather, it’s an exploration of how a wavering, vulnerable man, sometimes without convincing answers, a clumsiness and awkwardness that comes from raw uncertainty, opens himself up to learning from the gang members, felons and violent schizophrenics to whom he ministers — men whose…

Book Review: Closer by Dennis Cooper

There is barely an ember of warmth in Dennis Cooper’s work of transgressive fiction Closer. Instead, we meet a handful of young men on the threshold of adulthood who seem emotionally detached from any sense of community, family or from the concept of human dignity. It’s almost as if they exist as merely biological bodies–vessels devoid of that which actually makes…

Book Review: An Ocean of Thoughts by David Jones

Told in the first person through the eyes of Tony Joppa, this highly readable account of a young man’s struggle to overcome alcoholism is something of a glimpse into the world of Alcoholics Anonymous and an introduction to Buddhism. The protagonist and the characters who populate his world sound authentic, even though dialogue is used sparingly in this novel. At…

Book Review: An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor

Barbara Brown Taylor, a professor of religion and an Episcopal priest, makes a compelling case for erasing the artificial boundary between the sacred and the secular, and adopting a spirituality firmly grounded in the physical world that surrounds us. We can walk with reverence in this world and not neglect the life or the moment that we are presently living.…

Book Review: Breakthrough by Fr. Rob Galea

Father Rob Galea, a Maltese Catholic priest serving in Australia, writes in a highly conversational style about his journey from addiction, depression and anger to a life of faith and ministry. Somewhere between memoir, homily and a Catholic youth group talk, the book documents the path of a priest who speaks quite candidly of his own struggles and who is…