Barb Szyszkiewicz reviews two new Catholic novels, one focusing on marriage and family and the other on religious life.
The main character in both of these novels goes through a discernment journey. The strong, committed, and high-achieving women in each novel reach a breaking point in which they must determine whether their current path is right for them, life-giving, and (in once case) even ethical.
Debut novelist Brendan Hodge, in If You Can Get It (Ignatius Press), tells the story of a high-powered fashion executive whose confused younger sister's arrival in her luxury apartment is the catalyst for a reexamination of her career goals and, ultimately, what she wants out of life. Neither sister knows what to make of their parents' newfound religious fervor, and Jen chases after power and money in a new job that requires her to look the other way at bad business dealings and worse after-hours behavior.
A new start in a less-glamorous position close to her parents' Midwestern home provides Jen the opportunity to ponder what she really wants out of life, even as her sister Katie happily determines her own life path. If You Can Get It is an engaging read that explores the consequences of the single-minded pursuit of success at the expense of faith, family, friendship, and love. There's a bit of a surprise at the end -- and it's very satisfying.
Marian O'Shea Wernicke's Toward That Which is Beautiful (She Writes Press) could very easily have been a stereotypical "runaway nun" story, but that was not at all the case. Sr. Mary Katherine is anything but frivolous; she is clearly way over her head in terms of language, culture, and calling.
A very young missionary sister in Peru in the mid-1960s, Sr. Mary Katherine is ill-formed spiritually and ill-prepared by a crash course in Spanish to minister to a community where an indigenous language, not Spanish, is spoken and Americans are not entirely trusted. Hardship and isolation provide the perfect environment for her to develop an infatuation with an Irish priest who also ministers in the area -- and she is not willing to live without him. Reaching a breaking point, she runs away from the convent into the surrounding mountains without money, a coat, or a plan.
Wernicke's beautiful prose carries the story along to a surprising conclusion.
Copyright 2020 Barb Szyszkiewicz
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About the Author
Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. She is editor at CatholicMom.com. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count. Her booklet, The Handy Little Guide to Prayer, is coming in May 2021 from Our Sunday Visitor.