Thursday, September 20, 2007


"Sometimes all I want is for someone to tell me that eveything is going to be all right. I want someone to tell me this over and over again in a sweet but firm voice, the way you would tell it to a child crying in the dark after a nightmare about a hairy green monster under the bed. I want someone to tell me this often enough to banish my doubts and make me believe it."
-- Diane Schemperlen, OUR LADY OF THE LOST AND FOUND.

This novel is about a writer who one day, quite unexpectedly gets a visit from the Virgin Mary. Mary shows up at her front door, not levitating and radiating a glow of stars off her head, but wearing a trench coat, white running shoes, a large leather purse and holding the extended metal handle of a small suitcase on wheels. I need a place to stay for a week, she says, I am so tired, I need a break. The writer is no more startled than if an appealing stranger had made the request. And gut instinct tells her this stranger is not making things up.

Mary and the writer settle down to a cozy, girly time, making lunch together (Mary insists on doing the dishes,) driving to the mall (where she makes a withdrawal at the ATM) and spending evenings with Mary sharing deetails of her visitations over the centuries in the same nostalgic tone one would use to describe a lifetime of Carnival cruises.

The writer is motivated by this extraordinary visit to look into the history of the Saints on her own. Her descriptions (Ms. Schemperlen's, that is) are also couched in gossipy, off the cuff, page-turning style. Sandwiched along the way, are the writer's introspective takes on her own issues with doubt and faith, faith and reason, faith and fear and despair. And wether they are really opposites or can one make better sense of life if we accept them as a package deal.

There's another quote I liked, which brings up my own doubts and inconsistancies about embracing the Buddhhist's way of disregarding anything but the present moment, of shoving aside all projections of past and future. I couldn't have said it better:

"Sometimes I feel completely defeated by the daily struggle of trying to understand, of trying to be mature, responsible, happy, and good. Sometimes I long to throw off the yoke of reason, to crawl out from under what Cervantes called 'the melancholy burden of sanity.' Sometimes I want to get out of the way, stop trying so hard, and just let things happen."

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