Book News

Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright (HarperCollins, 342 pages, hardcover, $32.99).Esther: The Remarkable True Story of Esther Wheelwright, Puritan Child, Native Daughter, Mother Superior by Julie Wheelwright (HarperCollins, 342 pages, hardcover, $32.99).

Julie Wheelwright has an extraordinary tale to tell about her ancestor Esther. But she falls a little short of telling the whole story, and that’s a shame.

Esther Wheelwright lived in colonial New England at a time when violent conflict between settlers and native people was rife. Imagine living under the constant threat of kidnap. Imagine you are six or seven and this is all you have known. This was the way for 18th-century native children in what is now Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. 

Armed settlers took men, women, children, even babies — and this is in addition to taking the land native people needed to survive on. This was long before residential schooling was instituted. In the early colonial era, some were killed, others kept as slaves. We know little else about them.

Good intentions lost in political correctness

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Politically correct booksWhat does Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson and Malcolm X have to do with teaching children about the Catholic faith?

According two new books for Catholic students, teaching kids about Catholic saints and traditions means teaching them about multiculturalism and social justice, while skimming on details about the Catholic Mass.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with introducing children to the hot-button issues of our time like combating racism. In fact, it’s crucial to make the connection between faith and how it is lived out in society.

But in trying to be all things to all people, Jeanne Hunt’s Celebrating Saints and Seasons: Hundreds of Activities for Catholic Children (St. Anthony Messenger Press) and Lisa Freemantle and Les Miller’s Words for the Journey for Kids: Ten-Minute Prayer Services for Schools (Novalis) may be taking kids on a detour that falls short of teaching kids what their faith is really about.

Photographer-priest makes viewer present in Dene land

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Way Down NorthWhat makes Fr. René Fumoleau’s photography worth looking at is just where the missionary priest from France took his photos.  

Fumoleau showed up in the Dene lands straddling the Arctic Circle in 1953. He bought his first Pentax 35 mm camera in 1956. Without training or direction, he created a body of images that document the land and its people over 40 critical years of history for the Dene, all captured in a new book.

Jesuit author makes atheist arguments against God look silly

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New ProofsNew Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy, by Robert J. Spitzer, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 319 pages, softcover, $30.99).

Post-Newtonian physics has put philosophy and theology in the curious position of having to turn back to the Middle Ages. Suddenly what the scholastic theologians had to say about metaphysics and ontology is au courant.

When the apple fell on Newton’s head he came up with laws of physics which described a fully functioning closed system. Those laws could keep the whole thing going forever and had no absolute need for God. St. Thomas Aquinas’ “uncaused cause” argument thereby fell into disfavour. Metaphysics lost credence and was replaced at the centre of philosophy by epistemology — the question of how we know what we know. Ontology, the study of being, which had been the main preoccupation of medieval Western metaphysics, was bypassed.

Fr. Lewis aims to connect Scripture with people in the pews

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Father Scott LewisTORONTO - Members of the Holy Rosary parish choir in Burlington, Ont., really need Jesuit Father Scott Lewis’s new book, if only to clear the clutter of old programs piling up at home.

Music director Vicky Chen has been reprinting Lewis’s weekly Catholic Register column about the Sunday readings on the back of her weekly music programs for years. A former student in Lewis’s Scripture classes at Regis College, Chen feels the column gives choir members a context for the hymns and songs they sing Sunday mornings.

Suffering, death, survival, history and fiction interwined

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The Queen of UnforgettingThe Queen of Unforgetting by Sylvia Maultash Warsh (Cormorant Books Inc., 284 pages, $21).

The Queen of Unforgetting is a masterfully written book, with an engaging protagonist and a thought-provoking exploration of the themes of suffering, death and survival. It is well worth the read.

As the child of Holocaust survivors, Sylvia Maultash Warsh grew up listening to her mother’s stories of fleeing from the Nazis in Poland and surviving the horrors of the labour camps. These stories sparked Warsh’s interest in history — an interest that has shaped her fiction. To date, she has written three well-received historical mystery novels. In her fourth novel, The Queen of Unforgetting, she departs from the mystery genre with great success.

Only justice will bring Mideast peace

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Jerusalem TestamentJerusalem Testament by Melanie A. May (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 190 pages, softcover, $24.99).

Ecumenical statements can be dry. Words of consensus crafted by many minds, from many different traditions, are thoughtful, often insightful, but can lack the emotion that comes from one voice. Not so in Jerusalem Testament, a compilation of 20 years of statements from Palestinian Christian leaders. Their emotion is palpable.

As the narrative winds through the events of the Holy Land between 1988 and 2008, and progress towards peace rises and falls, an array of feelings come through: anguish at the lives destroyed, joy at glimmers of possibility, frustration at calls unanswered, determination to persevere. What also comes through is a sense of steadfast hope, a firm and deep faith in the child Jesus, who was born in the Bethlehem of their struggle.

Cardinal Newman's legacy strong today

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Newman’s Unquiet GraveNewman’s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint by John Cornwell (Continuum Books, 256 pages, hardcover, $22.95).

Every book has an agenda, sometimes blatant, sometimes unintentional, but always present and needing to be judged at least partly on the question of whether it achieves its goal.

A new biography of John Henry Newman, published mere months before the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to England and Scotland, during which the Pope will beatify the 19th-century cardinal, thinker and theologian, is a natural subject for agenda detection.

Wisdom gained through journey into darkness

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When Values CollideWhen Values Collide: The Catholic Church, Sexual Abuse and the Challenges of Leadership  by Joseph P. Chinnici, O.F.M. (Orbis Books, 236 pages, softcover, $26).

The horror of clerical sexual abuse rocking the Church around the globe is a decidedly multi-faceted phenomenon. Coming to understand and perhaps transcend exactly what the scandal means, it matters deeply which perspective you choose. Over the coming months and years there will be a wave of books available to everyone struggling to make sense of and move forward from the sensationalist detail that preoccupies much of the mainstream media. Joseph P. Chinnici’s When Values Collide is one of the first and it is a truly impressive starting point.

Helping you come to grips with grief

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Now What? A Practical Guide to Dealing with Aging, Illness and DyingNow What? A Practical Guide to Dealing with Aging, Illness and Dying by Sherri Auger and Barbara Wickens (Novalis, 160 pages, softcover, $19.95).

Barbara Wickens and Sheri Auger say they wish they had a reference tool when they were facing their parents’ illnesses and deaths.

Me too.

Brendan, a saint of adventure

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BrendanBrendan: The Remarkable Life and Voyage of Brendan of Clonfert, One of the most Beloved Irish Saints by Morgan Llywelyn (New York, Tom Doherty Associates, 303 pages, $29.99.)

Saints stand out as great role models for youth and if they haven’t already added St. Brendan to their list of heroes, it’s probable they will after reading Brendan: The Remarkable Life and Voyage of Brendan of Clonfert, One of the most Beloved Irish Saints by Morgan Llywelyn.

Brendan is a telling tale of the legendary life of St. Brendan of Clonfert, or St. Brendan the Navigator, one of the greatest Irish saints. In reading the novel, the reader will develop a mental picture of who St. Brendan was — a man of great faith, knowledge and love for God.