CHILDSONG, MONKSONG by Tolbert McCarroll


A Spiritual Journey
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 A poignant, heartfelt account of caring for children dying of AIDS. McCarroll, known as Brother Toby, initially retraces some of what he covered in Morning-Glory Babies (1988) about the formation of the Starcross Community, a lay Benedictine monastery in Sonoma, Calif. The community has been alternately tolerated and rejected by the Catholic hierarchy, which is apparently leery of its New Age influences. The celibates, both male and female, found their calling in adopting unwanted children, most of whom are HIV- positive. They soon attracted national attention for their efforts. Most of this slim volume is devoted to relating the stories of two particular children who challenged and changed Brother Toby's life in special ways. Tina, whom the author calls his ``daughter,'' was born and brought to the monastery when the monk was 57, having already raised and lost children of his own. Continually weakened by the virus and hospitalized with AIDS-related infections, Tina died three years later. Before she did, however, she grew into a willful, loving toddler who had her adopted father wrapped around her little finger. The other story is that of Brother Toby's goddaughter, Dana Rica. She was Romanian, and much of the book recounts the community's struggles with that country's bureaucracy on behalf of Dana Rica and other afflicted children. The girl's visit to Starcross was a high point for Brother Toby. His life, like the book, is filled with little miracles--a father singing to his daughter; watching a child play, dance, or laugh--and a quiet faith that death does not have the last word. Even with the grim subject matter and all the pain, this is a triumphant story that never degenerates into banality. It is the account of a group of people determined to make a difference--and of those who made a difference to them.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-11253-X
Page count: 112pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1994