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Entries in book review (6)


Courtroom Drama Offers a Great Summer  Read

This is a great ‘summer read’ especially if you like legal court room dramas!

Author, Beverley McLachlin is the former Chief Justice of Canada, and Full Disclosure is her debut novel. McLachlin’s court experience heightens the interest and drama of the courtroom by including interesting details of how the lawyers conduct their investigations and the choices they make along the way and during the court proceedings. This ‘inside look’ certainly adds to the overall drama. Enjoy!

 - Sister Valerie Van Cauwenberghe


Shakespeare Saved My  Life

Opening Laura Bates Shakespeare Saved my Life resulted in setting aside my mystery novel and sacrificing hours of sleep, an unexpected happening. 

Dr. Bates, an English professor at the University of Indiana recounts her experience of teaching Shakespearian plays to prisoners in a “supermax” penitentiary in Indiana.  Approval for her project required a huge effort to overcome derision, dismissal, fear, and disbelief despite her excellent success in teaching college courses in other Indiana prisons.  She describes the metamorphosis of inmates enrolled in the program and the appalling conditions in which she met with a group of eight inmates.

They attended class enclosed in windowless segregated cells and knelt on the floor to see through the unlocked waist high openings in their cell doors while Dr. Bates sat on a chair in the corridor. They completed weekly assignments that challenged their abilities and their thought processes.

The following quote (p. 253) is from an account co-written by one of the convicts, an uneducated man who will spend the remainder of his life in jail because he, at age seventeen, committed murder. Studying   Shakespeare changed his life.

Richard the Second is our launching pad that brings convicts back to normalcy. Then we break the curse that they are defined by their deeds with Henry the Fourth.  After that we build in them the potential for greatness with Henry the Fifth. In Henry the Sixth, we teach them to keep that potential grounded in realistic options. And with Richard the Third, we show them that it is essential that they follow their intrinsic motivation. Richard the Third is the consequence of not being rewarded as one thinks he should be.  He is the consequence of extrinsic motivation.  We do not live in fantasy worlds, and adversity will always exist, especially when one has a history such as ours, but when we are intrinsically driven, as Henry the Eighth is, the adversities do not have breaking power!”

I found myself lamenting the quality of my education in Shakespearian plays and seriously contemplating the project of studying Shakespeare.

-Sr. Patricia McKeon, csj


Ordinary People Love This  Book

While relaxing at our lake house in mid-December, I came across New York Times’ bestselling author Matthew Kelly’s 2018 book, “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity”.  The jarring title together with the claim on the book jacket that “ordinary people love this book”, piqued my interest and I began my search for the answer.  The book’s short, entertaining chapters kept me turning pages, until in chapter six, I found the answer.

In referring to the biggest lie, Kelly explains, “This lie is not one that non-Christians tell.  It’s a lie we tell ourselves as Christians”.  The lie concerns holiness. Kelly asserts, “The great majority of modern Christians don’t actually believe that holiness is possible”.  We think that maybe grandparents and saints of old reached holiness but never us.

The author spends the rest of the chapters debunking the notion that holiness is not possible for everyone.  He also explains in practical terms how to strive for holiness.  Such holiness is the antidote to the anger and ill will that is consuming today’s society and thwarting positive attitudes and the desire for peace.

Take up this easy to read book and you will learn the art of what Kelly calls the “Holy Moment”.  I think he has rebranded a concept that is as old as humanity.  In referring to the holy moment, Kelly cautions, “This single, profound, beautiful truth will change your life forever”.  It has the possibility to transform our ailing world.

I’m so convinced of the value of reading “The Biggest Lie the History of Christianity”, that this Christmas, I sent a copy to all ten of my nieces and nephews.  I’m a believer, trying to live Holy Moments every day.

By Jean Moylan, csj


A Mystery for the New Year - A Book  Review

To Die But Once   by: Jacqueline Winspear

This is the latest book in a series of mystery stories, woven around tales during the months of the second World War following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany. Maisie Dobbs, the main character, is a private investigator, in England, who has two assistants, Sandra and Billy.

The combination of fact, events detailing the second world war, and fiction, the mystery story that has been threaded through this novel, results in a very interesting read.

I look forward each year as Winspear continues to involve Maisie Dobbs in the next adventure in such a way that it like listening to yet another new and suspenseful tale told by a friend.

Although the Maisie Dobbs books are published yearly 2003 -2018  (with one exception, 2014), the author keeps the reader informed about past events in a very succinct and helpful manner. Her novels have been on the New York Times bestseller several times and readers wait for the next book in the Maisie Dobbs series to appear. I encourage you to join the Maisie Dobbs fan club!

- Sister Valerie Van Cauwenberghe


Let Darkness Bury the  Dead

Maureen Jennings’ mystery, Let Darkness Bury the Dead, (2017) is a Murdock Mystery. I did not choose this novel because of the story, but rather because I like Maureen Jennings’ writing and the Murdock character she has created.  It turned out that the novel is a story of the First World War, 100 years ago. I finished reading the novel just before Remembrance Day.

This story presents a very good description of the hardships and horrors of the Great War as well as a vivid portrayal of Victorian life in Toronto Ontario.

Murdock’s young son, 21 years old, has returned from France having personally experienced the scars of battle along with his friend who also is suffering from the horror of war. Meanwhile, Murdock, a senior detective, is called upon to solve a series of murders of men who were exempted from conscription. The author has woven the details of the events of the war into the story in a way that captivates the reader.   

Poetry and historical excerpts also play an important part in the telling of this story. It is a very interesting read.

- Sr. Valerie Van Cauwenberghe, csj


Copyright 2013. Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.