LEAST OF ALL SAINTS: The Story of Aimee Semple McPherson by Robert Bahr

LEAST OF ALL SAINTS: The Story of Aimee Semple McPherson

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KIRKUS REVIEW

History as soap opera. Sister Aimee (1890-1944) led a sensational life by any standard, from her first success as a barnstorming evangelist to her death from an overdose of Seconal, but Bahr wasn't satisfied with mere biographical facts: he freely interlards them with imaginary scenes and conversations, and swathes it all in breathless True Confessions prose (""'Oh, Robert, it's happened!' she whispered. Her breasts heaved. . .""). There's the makings of a cornball American epic--played up by Bahr for just that--in the melodramatic chain of events that led the foundress of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel from the rustic isolation of Salford, Ontario, to Los Angeles; from Robert Semple, the missionary who took her to China (and died there), to Harold McPherson (whom she left one rainy day in Orlando), to her lover, Kenneth Ormiston (whom she ran away with for five weeks, only to pretend later that she'd been kidnapped); and from poverty and obscurity to mismanaged millions and front-page notoriety. Bahr, meanwhile, pays no attention to the religious or social significance of the Foursquare Gospel or to Sister Aimee as a sign of the times. He sees her as the star of a three-handkerchief spectacular, and turns his years of research into footnotes for the screenplay. It's trash, but amusing and colorful trash, a combination of earnestness and meretricious hype that suits Mrs. McPherson (""I only see the sunshine,"" she repeated on every occasion) as perfectly as the gaudy absurdity of her Angelus Temple. More than a generation after her death, there is still no first-rate life of this fascinating ""saint,"" and so for the time being Bahr's silly but engrossing sketch will do as well as any.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1979
ISBN: 0595152899
Publisher: Prentice-Hall