From Publishers Weekly
Wood, one of our most astute critics of Christianity and literature, offers a splendid study of O'Connor, one of our most enigmatic Southern writers. Raised in Savannah and Milledgeville, Ga., O'Connor found herself a Catholic in a deeply Protestant South. But as Wood demonstrates, she was at home there, as she used her stories and novels to challenge what she saw as the sentimental piety of her own faith and the dullness of the Protestant liberalism of her time. Drawing on O'Connor's fiction, letters, book reviews and occasional writings, Wood examines key topics from race and the burden of Southern history to preaching and vocation. Although the depth of O'Connor's religious devotion reflected the sacramentalism of her Catholic faith, Wood ingeniously points out the debt she owed to the Bible-centered vision of Protestant theologian Karl Barth and to the images of fallenness that Reinhold Niebuhr offered in his famous work The Nature and Destiny of Man
. Rather than reading thematically through O'Connor's entire oeuvre, Wood selects stories and episodes from novels that illustrate his thesis about O'Connor's concerns. Wood observes that most of O'Connor's stories end with a graceful scene in which her protagonists experience a revelatory moment, "at once disclosing the horror of sin but also overcoming the horror with hope." Although there is no end to the books on O'Connor, Wood's elegant exploration of her theological reading of Southern culture provides fresh insight into her relevance for us today.
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"In this excellent and lucid study of O'Connor's theological and cultural convictions, Wood relates the grotesque in O'Connor's work to her understanding that Christianity requires an all-or-nothing response. . . . Anyone pursuing study of O'Connor's work will enjoy this book. Recommended."The Virginia Quarterly Review
"An admirably lively study of that particular mix of fundamentalist fire and Southern riotousness underlying O'Connor's works of fiction. . . Without undue sermonizing, this book does double duty as a readable guide to the theological bases of sin and salvation in O'Connor's fiction, and as a tribute to how bravely and viscerally O'Connor's voice speaks to whatever -- or whoever -- swings in the backs of our twenty-first-century minds." Publishers Weekly
-- Starred Review
"Ralph Wood, one of our most astute critics of Christianity and literature, offers a splendid study of O'Connor, one of our most enigmatic Southern writers. . . Wood's elegant exploration of her theological reading of Southern culture provides fresh insight into her relevance for us today." Southern Literary Journal
"Altogether engaging. It is good to be reminded just how philosophically and theologically aware O'Connor was." Catholic Library World
"O'Connor has been the subject of several recent literary studies, but Wood merits special note for his insightful book. . . Highly recommended to all academic libraries and O'Connor fans." Mississippi Quarterly
"Not only is Wood's book cogently and passionately argued, it also demonstrates that there are still new insights to be gleaned from theological approaches to O'Connor -- the well isn't dry, after all."