Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What A Friend We Have

In honor of the VBS I've enrolled my kids in (Vacation Bible School, did you recognize the song in the title?), I'm reviewing a religious book I picked up at the library because the title reminded me of a good friend. Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret reads as the memoirs of a devout Catholic, an orphan and a confident of Jesus. Jesus literally appears and talks to her, comforts her, and directs her through her life. Mary-Margaret at first assumes she'll be a nun, but her path is first diverted to a marriage with her childhood crush, a boy who has grown into a deeply troubled man.

The tone of this book was delicious, written in the no-nonsense gentle voice of an older Mary-Margaret looking back at her life. She has compassion for her younger self, and acknowledges that hindsight is smoothing out the bumps, but also looks at the problems (and a few horrors) in a clear, non-sentimental way. I liked the looping narrative -- seventy-year old Mary-Margaret alternates between her current life, in which she is surprised to find information about her unknown father, and tracing the story of her youth and adulthood. There isn't much suspense about the major parts of life, since she is writing to her fellow religious and they know how she ends up, but watching the relationships grow is part of the beauty of the book. The theme is God's love beyond reason, and how people can show that in real life, not in a stilted kind of way, but in a faltering human path. Of course, it would help if Jesus would come to take tea with us all, but each life is different.

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