An Unlikely Return to the Catholic Church
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Oakes (Writing/Univ. of California; Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture, 2009) chronicles her uneasy entry back into the Catholic Church, with plenty of F-bombs thrown in for good effect.

Proud of her bad-girl persona (perhaps more past than present) and of her liberal political activism, the author tries to convince both her readers and herself why she wanted to be a Catholic again. The result is readable and engaging but not necessarily convincing. Oakes grew up in a moderately Catholic family before rebelling. However, she could not rid herself of a belief in God, and eventually she was moved to try out church again. Unfulfilled with Protestant options, she went back to what she knew. At the beginning of her spiritual journey, she was uncomfortable with her choice: “I don’t want people to know I’m Catholic again because it still seems so oppositional to the rest of my life.” Indeed, Oakes’ main draw to Catholicism seems to be the challenge and the opportunity to be an agitator from within. She expresses feeling a lack of community until her searching led her to sympathetic priests, feminist nuns and activist laywomen. She found her place in Catholicism in such backdrops as a “pray-and-bitch” circle of women and a predominantly gay congregation. The author concludes with the story of her visit to Italy, where she found some moments of genuine religious feeling at places such as the tomb of St. Francis. Oakes’ writing flows well, but it sometimes feels almost lazy (e.g., describing Juan Diego, who encountered the Virgin of Guadalupe, as “the indigenous guy”) or overly caustic for the sake of her own self-image as a rebel. The author’s low self-esteem and the weight of her past drag her down throughout the book and are not alleviated by her spiritual quest, which seems, in the end, more a quest for community.

A somewhat intriguing but mostly uneasy faith journey.

Pub Date: July 10th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59376-431-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Counterpoint
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2012


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