by Liz Trotta ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 1, 1998
A superficial treatment of the patron saint of hopeless causes. Trotta (Fighting for Air: In the Trenches with Television News, 1991), New York bureau chief of the Washington Times, paints herself as a hard-nosed reporter who, as a lapsed Catholic, is an unusual author for a book on a Catholic saint. But the book shows few of those hard edges; if anything, it's ahistorical, sentimental, and shallow. Pan of this is due to Trotta's neglect of other studies of Jude. Near the beginning, she claims that ""there is virtually no study of him, either in the scholarly or popular sense."" But just because Trotta hasn't done her homework doesn't mean that the definitive book on Jude isn't already out there: It's the vastly superior Thank You, Saint Jude, by Robert Orsi. Trotta, for example, mentions more than once that middle-age women (like her own mother) are often the most avid proponents of Jude; Orsi spends chapters explaining why 20th-century American women had few other recourses. Trotta tells the memorable stories of Jude's healings and miracles with a journalist's sensationalism; Orsi approaches them with a keen ethnographic eye. And while Trotta is the professional writer, Orsi's book is actually more readable to boot; Trotta's prose tries too hard with its overblown analogies and imagery (""Jude wafts above the roaring crowd, dodging the spotlight""). Orsi addresses Judean devotion primarily from the Depression through Vatican II, while Trotta's book explores contemporary Jude veneration in several cities. She does make the good point that Jude devotions seem to have increased since the iconoclastic reforms of Vatican Il, as Catholics seek to replace some of the myth and magic of earlier rituals. But since she doesn't offer any historical basis for comparison with pre-Vatican II devotions, the argument falls short. If you read one book on Jude, let it be Orsi's. Trotta would do well to read it, too.
Pub Date: July 1, 1998
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998
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