Catholics and spiritual seekers of a liberal bent, however, will find Beck’s opinions refreshing and well stated.

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GOD UNDERNEATH

THE SPIRITUAL MEMOIRS OF A CATHOLIC PRIEST

Episodes, told both annoyingly and effectively, along one man’s road to Damascus.

Beck, a forty-something Catholic priest and member of the Passionist Order (which emphasizes the Passion of Christ in its daily observances), takes a God-as-homey approach to matters theological in his memoir of spiritual growth. There’s no trace of the Old Testament’s angry deity in his conception of the boss upstairs. Quite the opposite: “When God speaks my name,” he writes, “it is always as lover—never as angry parent or disgruntled spouse.” That highly personal approach leads Beck into reveries that would not be out of place in the more esoteric literature of the New Age movement, one of which reveries encourages the reader to imagine that prayer is a kind of chat with God “as if He was my best friend, sitting on the floor of my bedroom after winning a baseball game.” All is not warm and cuddly in Beck’s theology, however, and he takes issue with the official doctrine at many points, defiantly insisting that “our absolute moral obligation is always to follow our own conscience, and never to act against it. This presumes we take time to inform our conscience, which includes knowing the Church teaching, approaching it with respect, and being open to it. But it doesn’t mean we will always literally follow that teaching.” Readers with a pre–Vatican II sensibility will likely take constant issue with Beck’s view of matters such as priestly celibacy, homosexuality, poverty, marriage, and the role of women in the church—and with his penchant for citing the likes of Meryl Streep and Carly Simon while examining some moral point or another.

Catholics and spiritual seekers of a liberal bent, however, will find Beck’s opinions refreshing and well stated.

Pub Date: June 17, 2001

ISBN: 0-385-50180-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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