SALVADOR WITNESS: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan by Ana Carrigan

SALVADOR WITNESS: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Spun-off from a PBS program co-produced by Carrigan on the life of Jean Donovan, one of the four American church women murdered in El Salvador in 1980, this new, literary version seeks to answer questions about Donovan's life and the events of her death. Earlier entries, and particularly Raymond Bonnet's Weakness and Deceit (p. 435), have settled most of the issues concerning the murder: the two Maryknoll sisters Ita Ford and Maura Clarke, who were returning from Nicaragua, had been placed on a list of subversives; they, together with lay missionaries Donovan and Dorothy Kazen who had met them at San Salvador's airport, were abducted and murdered, probably on the orders of a regional army commander who was never brought to trial. After the murders, the story is mainly one of a cover-up by the Salvadoran government and military, and of foot-dragging and evasion by the American government, countered by dogged persistence on the part of the murdered women's families that eventually led, in May 1984, to the conviction of five National Guardsmen for the crime. As for Donovan's life, Carrigan recounts her comfortable upbringing in Westport, Connecticut, her dedication to a successful business career, and her first steps in that direction through a Cleveland accounting job that brought her an apartment, a car, and a motorcycle--a mÉnage that Carrigan repeatedly cites as evidence of Donovan's entry into the ""good life."" Her decision to throw this over and go to El Salvador is one that her Cleveland friends never figured out, and Carrigan traces it to a crisis in self-identity and faith that first showed itself in her conversations with a Catholic priest she met while studying for a year in Cork, Ireland. But the ""Jean discovers poverty"" theme is unsatisfying: there was poverty enough for her to see at home, but no inkling that she bothered to notice. Some personal crisis was presumably behind the radical shift in her professed values; but Carrigan says nothing to suggest that this crisis is either explicable or of value for others. In the end we don't really know what brought Jean Donovan to her death in El Salvador, and that's probably beside the point anyway. It's a sympathetic account of little substance.

Pub Date: Dec. 7th, 1984
ISBN: 157075604X
Publisher: Simon & Schuster