From Publishers Weekly
Noonan's warm remembrance of the man she calls her spiritual father is a refreshing addition to the growing collection of biographies of and memoirs about the late Pope John Paul II. What makes this volume so inviting is Noonan's chatty manner of writing about John Paul and the very personal way he affected her life. She is willing to be transparent here, especially in the chapters where she imparts elements of her faith story, explaining how she moved toward "serious Catholicism" and "deepened belief" during John Paul's reign and how she came to see him as her spiritual father. Although Noonan writes glowingly of her subject, she does not duck criticism of his lengthy pontificate. For one, she suggests he could have taken stronger action against the banal way the Catholic liturgy has come to be celebrated in the West. She particularly laments John Paul's inadequate response to the church's "great shame" of clergy sexual abuse, and seizes the opportunity to lambaste the church's cardinals and bishops as well. Noonan recaps what she told the American bishops at a meeting in September 2003, but sadly wonders whether they truly understood the magnitude of the problem. Noonan's and John Paul's fans will appreciate her take on the late pope and the delightful way in which she weaves his legacy into her own walk of faith.
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Speechwriter and columnist Noonan is better at flashing insight and anecdote than at sustained argument and narrative. Her memoir of the late pontiff is, then, scrappy, though lyrical passages about John Paul's exceptionally didactic charisma and her own growth in faith predominate. Specifically motivating the book is the fact that, when elected in 1978, John Paul arrived to "speak" to Noonan with conversionary power precisely at the time she returned to church and began immersing herself in orthodoxy. Hence her keen appreciation of his mission to embody Christianity throughout the world, culminating in his unusually public dying, which reminded Christians and testified to non-Christians that the "highest" Christian must suffer, too--that, indeed, God
so suffered in Christ, only to rise again as all Christians, whether confessing on Earth or not, shall rise. Noonan expands further on another aspect of John Paul's theology of the body that is often misrepresented in the West: his insistence that soul and body are absolutely inseparable, and to abuse the body through sexual incontinence, in particular, is to wound the soul. Surprisingly, or not, she then proceeds to score John Paul for insufficiently responding to the sexual scandals among the American priesthood. From that point to the end, many may feel Noonan focuses too much on her own doings, though she rallies for one good chapter on the beatification of Mother Teresa and another on John Paul's funeral. Uneven though it is, this is an absorbing personal tribute to a remarkable figure. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved