A woman sits in prayerful meditation, waiting to offer her first confession in more than thirty years. She holds a small book on her lap, one that she’s made, and tells herself again the Bible stories it contains, the ones she has written anew, for herself, each story told aslant, from Jonah to Jesus, Moses to Mary Magdalen. Woven together and stitched by hand, they provide a new version, virtually a new translation, of the heart of this ancient and sacred text. Rakow’s Bernadette traces, through each brief and familiar story, a line where belief and disbelief touch, the line that has been her home, ragged and neglected, that hidden seam.
The result is an amazing book of extraordinary beauty, so human and humorous, and yet so holy it becomes a work of poetry, a canticle, a song of lament and praise. In the private terrain of silence and devotion, shared with us by a writer of power and grace, Rakow offers, through Bernadette, her own lectio divina for the modern world.
No reader will forget this book or be able to read the Bible itself without a new perspective on this text that remains, arguably, Western civilization’s greatest literary achievement.
This is Mary Rakow’s second book and like her first one she doesn’t disappoint. Rakow has once again managed to get the readers’ interest and keep it from virtually the first page. The style of writing is very personal and easy to follow. The stories are challenging in that they challenge our understanding of these familiar childhood tales.
I found that whilst I was reading the stories contained in this book that I needed to remind myself they were the reflections of a fictional character and not necessarily real. This wasn’t easy due to the fact that so many of them were my favourites. This distancing from the Biblical stories as I know them was necessary so that I could engage with the woman that this story was focussed on – the lady who had chosen to go back to church after a 30 year absence.
One of the stories that I found most challenging of all was the story of Legion. This story challenged my belief that God could love a demon/s. Yet the question that came to mind was “Why wouldn’t he?” In spite of all this though God “…forgave all of…” mankind’s “…cruelty, arrogance, pride, and greed.”
This book is a really worthwhile read. Whilst I read it as one would a novel, this book would really lend itself to study of each story or group of stories. Therefore doing your own reflection on the reflections.