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A Miracle for St. Cecilia's Paperback – June 24, 2003

4.3 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Dorsetville Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Folk artist Valentine seems to strive to emulate Jan Karon in this first novel, but is more aptly compared to Thomas Kinkade, another artist whose recent novel takes place in a New England community eerily like Dorsetville, which is Valentine's setting. In this town that time forgot, Catholic priest Father James frets over the archdiocese's decision to close down his church, leaving his aging parish without a place to worship. With the exception of some surprisingly mean-spirited depictions of Dorsetville's Congregationalists and a few other minor characters, Valentine offers a cast of saints: a young family fighting cancer, an elderly prayer warrior and several kind-underneath-it-all curmudgeons. Beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday, the novel is basically an introduction to these characters, which is to be expected this is the first in a series of Dorsetville books. Valentine favors redundancy, sometimes repeating information as if it were new. Moreover, the "miracle" at the end is confusing and appears from nowhere, as do a number of other plot contrivances such as, for example, the sudden appearance of a long-lost relative of the prayer warrior. Still, Valentine's prose is readable, and unlike most Christian fiction, this novel features devout Catholics, who resemble their fictional Protestant counterparts in every way except one: they drink. (When Father James is offered coffee heavily spiked with Jack Daniels, he enthusiastically accepts.) While Valentine's portrayal of the Catholic Church is undoubtedly sugarcoated, some readers will relish her prettified vision.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It will take a miracle to save St. Cecilia's, the Catholic church in the small Connecticut town of Dorsetville. The town has fallen on hard times since the woolen mills shut down, and the church, an ornate relic of more prosperous days, serves just a handful of parishioners. When word comes from the archdiocese that St. Cecilia's will be closed right after Easter, Father James Flaherty worries about what will happen to elderly and addled Father Keene--and to Lori Peterson, waitress at the Country Kettle, whose husband, Bob, needs a bone-marrow transplant, and to Harriet Bedford, who found solace in the church after a family tragedy--not to mention numerous others who are too old or too poor to travel all the way to St. Bartholomew's in Burlington for mass. Just in time, an event at the church draws crowds and donations, but the real miracle comes from another direction. This book is the first in a projected series. Though it is less charming and more heavy-handed than Jan Karon's beloved Mitford novels, Valentine's clergyman as central character and close-knit, small-town setting make comparisons inevitable. A Catholic spin in the successful Mitford formula could be popular, and libraries should buy accordingly. Mary Ellen Quinn
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (June 24, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142003050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142003053
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #873,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tonya Speelman VINE VOICE on March 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am at a loss for words. This book is one in a million. It has been compared to Mitford, and that would be accurate! I recommend this book to everyone. Your faith will strengthen and be reaffirmed over and over. This book reminds us, that we are NOT on our time, but the Lord's. Don't hesitate to pick this read up and add it to your library!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have to agree with another reviewer that this book is much, much better than the Mitford series. The characters come alive on the pages of this wonderful story of faith and hope in a small New England town. The miracles that happen to several of the parishoners are an added bonus and crackle with spiritual electricity. The author's afterward relating events from her own life blew me away. If you're in need of a little hope or just a boost to a flagging faith, then this book is for you. I plan to buy copies for both of my daughters to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a fan of The Mitford Series, I think you will also enjoy A Miracle For St. Cecilia's. Set in a quaint, charming, New England town, you will meet an endearing set of characters, both parishoners at St. Cecilia's, as well as the towns folk of Dorsetville. Leading the parishoners of St. Cecilia's is Father James, who learns that St. Cecilia's doors will be closed due to lack of funds. Heart-broken, Father James is distressed at what will happen to his St. Cecilia's family, who rely on the church and their friendships there, to get through life's struggles.
Katherine Valentine is a gifted writer, though her style is simple, it is wonderfully easy to read, and creates a true warmth and feeling of comfort. Even though it did seem a lot like the Mitford series, it was still creative in the story lines, entertaining and insightful. For those with Christian roots, it provides some strong messages of faith & hope.
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Format: Kindle Edition
While I liked the story and the characters and found it generally engaging, I agree with another reviewer who found the author's Catholicism blunders to be "jarring". For example: The priests wear Violet vestments on Good Friday, not Red. The Passion narrative is read on Palm Sunday (when the priests *do* wear Red vestments) and the Priest is always, always, always the voice of Christ (he is the Alter Christus, after all!). A woman, no matter how involved, would never, ever be allowed to read the words of Christ (well, perhaps in an absurdly liberal parish they might try such nonsense...but that's not the type described in this book). The characters don't fast on Ash Wednesday, but she makes a big deal of their fasting on Good Friday. The Hail Mary is wrong. Etc.

Also, there's an important funeral that happens, but it's mentioned only in passing as "it happened." It's a significant event that at least deserves a reflection, and I think skipping over that while giving a long, detailed backstory about the dispute between the Catholics and the protestants across the green was a misuse of pages.
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Format: Hardcover
As a fiction lover and fan of inspirational books such as the Mitford series, I was overjoyed when I heard about the publication of A Miracle for St. Cecilia's. Why? Because in today's world, there is always a need for books emphasizing the theme of Hope - hope in times of despair when it seems that the odds are stacked so staggeringly against us. Katherine Valentine manages to spread the good news that there is good cause to believe in Hope, and she manages to tell a great story while sharing this good news.
Set in the charming but declining mill town of Dorsetville, A Miracle for St. Cecilia's unites a cast of characters who, while engaged in their own personal struggles, come together to fight for a cause close to their hearts. Their beloved Catholic church, the focal point of their spiritual lives and social structure, and a source of financial and emotional support for their decaying community, is about to close. The book brings together an unlikely band of heroes: a dad with a deadly disease, a troubled young computer genious, three aging retirees (one of whom is Jewish, but a good friend to the church), a retired hunting dog, an elderly Irish priest, and the Pastor of St. Cecilia's who has great intentions but just can't seem to pull his parish out of the red ink.
The story moves along nicely and pulls the reader in quickly. I fell in love with the people of Dorsetville and found myself thinking about the many communities across our country who find themselvs facing these same troubling circumstances in their own places of worship.
As a Catholic, I appreciated this book for its attention to doctrinal and liturgical detail. I feel, however, that its message has broader appeal and that it will touch the hearts and souls of many.
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Format: Paperback
This was such a wonderful book. Do not listen to those who accuse the author of copying the Mitford series. I enjoyed the Jan Karon series but I LOVE this one. You will not be disappointed. The uplifting message of faith and hope filled my spirit.
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By A Customer on September 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you like the Mitford series, you should like this. Lots of characters with personality, some of which I can see in my own parish. I liked the message of hope and faith. The description of Vermont in the winter was almost too good - I kept getting cold hands while reading the book.
Chatty without being gossipy, religious without being preachy - I would recommend this to anyone looking to have some heartstrings pulled.
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