DREAMING OF HEROES by Susan Richards Shreve


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A cacophonous Message novel, riddled with spiritual epiphanies, stagily heroic deeds, and poignant postures--all centered on the career of ""charismatic"" Jamie Waters, who will eventually be ordained as a female Episcopal priest. It is 1950 before Jamie's mother Elizabeth becomes aware that the husband she thought had died in WW II just might be alive and well with a different name in Washington, D.C. So seven-year-old hellion Jamie, who even then suspects that ""she had the kind of energy that put the world around her in motion,"" goes with Elizabeth to Washington--where they join cousin Thorn, victim of a botched abortion and now a Salvation Army worker. And eventually their communal female household also includes Dr. Margaret Carney (who saved Jamie's life) and Prudential Dargon--""like a black panther. . . full of dark promises in her carriage,"" mother of half-white son Victory. In the years that follow, then, Jamie works for the Salvation Army Mission, attends Catholic mass and confession, and is consumed with the need to ""touch some larger spirit than her own, to be eaten alive and emerge whole."" Increasingly, seeing the desperate needs of the downtrodden, she knows what she wants to do: ""to touch the inner lives of people."" There's an unsuccessful period in an Episcopal convent; a trip to the Olympics, where runner Douglas McIntire (Jamie's soulmate) triumphs; college and theological school. In the racial turmoil of the Sixties, Prudential and Victory express their rage in various dangerous ways: tragedies--rapes, kidnapping, fatalities--add more impetus to Jamie's activism. And finally it will be Fr. Nicholas Seymour, sharing the hope for salvation in serving others, who effects Jamie's ordination--a step which she takes in defiance of the Church's prohibition. . . to be ""in control of her choices."" The humanistic call to a clerical vocation is certainly valid, but Shreve is at her weakest when dealing with Issues (cf. Children of Power, 1979); and the spiritual search here--undermined by an overdrawn supporting cast and rampant preachiness--seems pale and diffuse.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1984
Publisher: Morrow