Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
If this path to God is an illusion, then the story is worthless.
Oh, Anne. May I call you Anne? Remember when you freaked out on Amazon.com over the negative reviews of Blood Canticle? Or how about the time you brought your special brand of lunacy right here to The Cult? (sadly lost in the great Drupal transfer of the aughts.) Because that's what I was expecting from your memoir, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession. To be honest, that's the only reason I read it. I was hoping for a heaping dose of bat-shit crazy, but to your credit, all I got was an even-handed elegy to your archaic religion. *Sigh.
I knew going in this wasn't going to be an auto-bio about writing, and you took every available opportunity to remind me of that. My intent here is to discuss the great religious world in which I was brought up. I'll say. You spend the first fifty plus pages describing in excruciating detail how beautiful Catholicism was to you as a child. The music, the ritual, those tasty little crackers- it is one big Byronic love letter to pomp and circumstance.
Not the most exciting material, but I persevered and held out hope- because before you can be called out of darkness, you must first enter into darkness. Anticipation of this fall from grace was what kept me going, and believe me, it wasn't easy. Finally, on page 115, at about the halfway point- the sin begins! My eyes scanned text with renewed vigor, but alas, where were all the gory details? Allow me to draw your attention to a quote from page 131:
It's pointless to describe my life as an atheist, or to attempt a personal memoir here of how I became a published author.
What a gip! And not only do you skip the gory details, you skip ALL details (that don't pertain to religious ceremony, that is.) Anything remotely interesting is glossed over, such as your previously mentioned career, or you and your husband's courtship. For someone who was such an important fixture in your life, poor Stan Rice gets very little face-time.
What that leaves us with is very little story and a whole lot of description. I suppose it is meant to be uplifting, but for a conversion story, it is relatively subdued. Even the eventual moment of epiphany comes across as bland. It is more intellectual than emotional. You basically say, Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!, shrug your shoulders and accept your fate.
You also spend a good deal of time apologizing. Catholicism rejects evolution, but... Catholicism doesn't accept my gay son, but... If you have to rationalize the flaws in your religion, how can you accept it as absolute truth? And if you don't believe that truth to be absolute, then what's the point? It doesn't make for a very convincing argument. You reference other problems in the church, such as gender equality and the recent pedophilia scandals, saying that if you were aware of them at the time, you might not have re-consecrated your life to God. You even go as far as to call it a miracle! This statement is borderline offensive, as ignorance is NEVER miraculous, no matter what the circumstance.
As a story, there isn't much being offered here. As a testimony, it's not likely to bring anybody rushing into the bosom of mother church. This one is for die-hard fans only, and even they might be disappointed. Those looking for a good laugh at the expense of a religious zealot, don't even bother. Ms. Rice maintains her composure to the point of tedium. There are glimpses of an interesting life in this book, but the road not taken has made all the difference.