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on February 24, 2004
Robert Ellsberg has come through again. He provides us with a marvelous review of the spiritual writings of Flannery O'Connor, most famous for her short stories but neglected, up until now, for her deep analyses of the Catholic faith and salvation.
Ellsberg selects the best from the voluminous collection of her letters, "The Habit of Being," and arranges them for accessibility and understanding in sections entitled "Christian Realism," "Mother and Teacher," "Revelation," "A Reason to Write," and "The Province of Joy."
Flannery didn't want to be a voice crying in the wilderness. She wanted to reach an unbelieving audience even though she bridled at being called a "Catholic writer." She preferred to be called "a Christian realist" and said that "one of the awful things about writing when you are a Christian is that for you the ultimate reality is the Incarnation, and nobody believes in the Incarnation, that is, nobody in your audience." Flannery wanted her audience to be broad and for that she strove to become the best story teller possible, beginning with her stint at the Iowa Writers Workshop. She went on to become required reading in college English courses. There are PhD theses galore now on this most excellent of American writers.
Although she died just as the Second Vatican Council was beginning, she was awesomely prescient in her observations on the Church, including its warts: "We sometimes have to suffer more from the Church than we do for it."
This is spiritual reading, yes, but it is also an inside look at a great artist.
I'm not doing justice to this book, nor to Flannery O'Connor herself. You will just have to see for yourself, which is all Flannery ever asked us to do.
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on July 13, 2011
Book Reflections

I wanted to begin my review with Book Reflections because I believe most people will not take the time to read a book review of a biography/Compilation of writings of an author that they have never heard of it. Another reason I begin this way is because many of those who may take the time to read her may dismiss her because she was a Catholic. O'Connor has a great deal to teach us in regards to the difficulty of grace. O'Connor's writings will provoke conversation, discussion, and deep thought. O'Connor's stories will stick with you and challenge your interpretation of reality. O'Connor also has many lessons to teach aspiring authors. O'Connor takes writing and the thoughts behind writing to a level that most will never reach. I highly encourage you to buy everything that you can of O'Connor. Many of O'Connor's short stories are available for free online. Pick up and read!

Book Review
Robert Ellsberg does a fantastic job of bringing together Flannery O'Connor's Spiritual Writings. Ellsberg pulls from various stories, letters, articles, and essays by O'Connor (e.g. Mystery & Manners, Wise Blood, The Presence of Grace, ect). The book covers that which influenced O'Connor, in her own words. The book also demonstrates O'Connor's influence and necessity of the church within her writing. Finally, and most importantly the book demonstrates O"Connor's contribution to writing itself. O'Connor is worth reading, even if you only read her Mystery and Manners. Mystery and Manner is a book about how to write. O'Connor will cause you to take the next step into the lives of the characters, which you may be writing about. Large chunks of Mystery and Manners can be found throughout the book. If you have never read O'Conner this is a great introduction to her works. Richard Giannone writes the introduction to the book giving the reader a thorough back to the life of Flannery. Giannone also does an exceptional job introducing her works and allowing the reader to see the context of her writing. From the introduction the reader leaves well equipped to take on O'Conner's works as a whole. Upon completion of each chapter you feel like you are left with a theatrical teaser and longing for more. Ellsberg also does a great job bringing O'Conner's lasting quotes to the forefront throughout the summary.
Publisher: Orbis Books
Publication Date:2003
Pages: 173
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: B+

Quotes about Flannery O'Connor and her works
Mark Driscoll
"I'm not a huge fiction reader... except for Flannery O'Connor."
Desiring God talks about Flannery O'Conner

Douglas Jones (In an Article @ Credenda Agenda `Doug Wilson's church's Magazine)
"I've found it terribly difficult to get modern Christians to
read O'Connor--even in healthy Christian communities. In
my case, too, secular writers first made me sit up and notice
O'Connor. They praised her technique and famous opening
paragraphs. They lauded her tension and dialogue. Flannery
O'Connor won several notable writing awards during her life,
even while the secularists didn't really have a clue about her
Christian realism.
Flannery O'Connor is easily the most important and
talented and self-consciously Christian short story author of
the twentieth century. Nobody else is close. I've seen her
stories revolutionize people's lives, and yet most Christians
have never even heard her name. Sure, many Christian
academics and writers sing her praises, especially of late. But
we should all know her stories inside and out; they should be
easy allusions in conversation; they should be common
parables in our teens' mouths. And we need to master her
style and absorb her insights before the next generation can
build upon her gifts."

Albert Mohler (Discussing a book containing stories from different authors)
"(Author) has chosen stories from masters such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Flannery O'Connor ... writers whose stories will make the Christian think and reflect . . . and enjoy reading."
Flannery is one of Russell Moore's favorite authors (VP of Southern Seminary)
Flannery is one of Don Whitney's favorite authors (Author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)

Discussion Question

Do you think Flannery's view of Grace (As not always a happy ending, sweet, and pretty) is biblically accurate?

~The Reformed Reader~
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on January 21, 2007
While O'Connor fans may be able to locate much of this material elsewhere, it's wonderful to have her thoughts on spiritual matters collected and arranged as they are in this book. Giannone's introduction is good reading, too.
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on February 23, 2015
Feel as though I am engaged in a conversation with this brilliant, thoughtful, timeless woman.

Flannery O'Connor seems as much like the sweet old story telling sweater wearing Jesus lovin' cat lady living down the street as she does the eloquent thinker theologian philosopher who weilds a mighty pen.

Yet neither description gives justice to the woman nor her works.

Flanner O'Connor is a human who spent much time in conversation with God. Read the Bible deeply and frequently. And not only was disciplined in her reception of the Sacraments, she pondered them and the grace within. She regarded the Church with a loving, firm, steady gaze. Unflinching. Considering natures human and divine.

I might be a 40 something woman in the 2000s. But find this brief collection of Ms. O'Connor's letters, chapters, comments is so very relevant!

I am glad that I bought this slim volume and have had the chance to read with a small discussion group. It was an excellent introduction. Am eager to read more of her writing, personal letters and formal fiction alike.
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on April 12, 2014
This is a wonderful volume, both summarizing O'Connor's life, and given very relevant quotes and sources from her writings and letters. An invaluable addition to one's adult journey in spiritual growth, (not just Catholic growth), Highly recommended for concise, precise, nuggets and jewels on virtually every page.
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on December 28, 2013
This book is about Flannery O'Connors, life, spiritual journal and how she coped with faith throughout her life time. Amazon carries her actual spiritual journal which I read first and then this running commentary. I gave it 4 stars because I think you should read the actual prayer journal first. See if Amazon offers the books as a bundle that way you have have plenty of fine reading and contemplation ahead for you. Check out Amazon's collection of companion books and follow this prolific writer and her spiritual journey. You will be glad to add these books to your spiritual reading collection.
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on March 8, 2014
It is a beautifully written book.
I found it very Interesting and relatable.
What I liked most was how it showed her humanity and her struggles
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on May 3, 2013
THIS WAS A GREAT INTRODUCTION TO HER LIFE AND LITERATURE. I TRULY ENJOYED THIS READING THIS BOOK. I LOOK FORWARD TO READING "THE HABIT OF BEING" AND HER STORIES.
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on February 4, 2016
I was captivated by the advertisements and articles about the book. It is a simple yet profound work. Pages seem to make us feel like we are with the writer.
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on July 13, 2013
Flannery O'Connor is a very interesting and enjoyable author. This book gives a peek at her, I am looking forward to reading more of her books.
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