Friday, August 23, 2013

Astonished

Astonished:

A story of evil, blessings, grace and solace

By Beverly Donofrio

Published by Viking (Penguin), March 7th, 2013


Beverley Donofrio is a writer who has turned her experience of being raped into an unusual book indeed.  She had moved to Mexico in her fifties to make a  new life for herself and to explore and develop her interest in monasticism and Christian spirituality; being attacked in her own home by a serial rapist shook her profoundly but also acted as a catalyst to pursue her spiritual journey more emphatically.

This is a memoir which encompasses pain, regret for her failings as a mother, dealing with the aftermath of being raped, sadness at wasted opportunities in her life, the problem of why God allowed such a thing to happen to her and the others attacked, and an awareness of a possible - albeit short-term - vocation to a form of religious life. Her decision to stay at five different religious communities provides insight into her own and others' religious development and outlook; some of the communities are rather less conventional than one would associate with Catholicism, but Domofrio's own brand of Catholicism and somewhat  esoteric beliefs regarding the Mother of God do not appear to be entirely conventional either!

It is generally an engaging read, but for those of a traditional religious theology and mindset, it may prove to be infuriating in places. I did seriously consider whether or not to continue reading a book which seemed to be simultaneously superficial and complex, heretical and insightful, but I persevered. I'm not sure whether  would want to read it again though.
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