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on June 29, 2004
A life such as Mother Teresa's is deserving of an insightful vibrant and skillfully told biography. I found Kathryn Spink's "Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography" left wanting. It did not live up to the magnitude of Mother Teresa's life of service and giving throughout the world but especially in India's Calcutta in the formation and running of the Sisters of Charity.
Spink's "Mother Teresa," reads, at times, like a laundry list of events with no coherent effort made to illuminate the person behind the events. The best biographies I have found don't rely so much on the cold hard history to build a story around, but rather insight as to who the person is and how they interacted with the world. I think of skillfully told biographies in which I walked away from the reading of them with insight, motivation, and the feeling that I knew the subject and was engaged in their life. Benson's "John Steinbeck: Writer," and Morris "Theodore Rex," come to mind as examples. Spink's "Mother Teresa," does not do the same.
I credit the writer for tackling some tough issues in the last two chapters. She addresses criticisms of Mother Teresa and the Sister's of Charity co-workers and does so without sidestepping difficult points of contention. Some social work critics fault the work of Mother Teresa for not wielding her influence to address the root causes of poverty and only tackling the end-product of suffering in a simplistic manner. In addition, Mother Teresa was loyal to the Catholic Church and stood staunch in support of difficult traditional stances espoused by that organization to include pro-life in all cases. Spink's does a good job of pitting Mother Teresa's perspective of service and belief to explain why she did what she did and why she believed as she did. However, this isn't until the last two chapters of the book and this illuminating approach could have been begun on page 1.
All in all, I would only recommend this book if you are attempting to delve deeply into the life and times of Mother Teresa and have read other books on that subject. If you want a good read and are just scratching the surface finding out what Mother Teresa's life was all about, look elsewhere dear reader.
--MMW
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on August 13, 1998
Mother Teresa authorized this biography, but there are other books and videos that have captured her essence better. There's not much in the way of interviews with her contemporaries and her opponents in order to paint a picture of the subject. Instead, it's a very adoring and very superficial account of her life. (For instance, Eileen Egan is mentioned twice and apparently was never interviewed. Mother Teresa's niece is absent from the narrative. The Christopher Hitchens charges are alluded to, but not mentioned or addressed.) You can actually learn more about Mother Teresa and her deep, abiding love for God in other biographies or in the Petrie documentary. I read this while going back and forth into my other Mother Teresa books of prayers and found this one lacking in the one thing that Mother Teresa would have wanted: a sense of the reason why she became who she was.
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on June 25, 2002
This book is one of a kind. It is very very inspiring. Mother Teresa has conveyed the ideas of service and brotherhood through her life. Such devotion and love could come only from an ever-shining and divine spirit. I have re-read quite a few chapters of the book and I can say enthusiastically that this book has helped me a lot in spiritual growth and transformation.
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on June 26, 2013
I didn't finish it. I bought it because of my admiration for Mother Teresa and that hasn't lessened certainly. But it seems that the fact is she just helped people 24/7 without having a thought of seeking recognition. It was clear from the beginning that she didn't want a book written about her and it seemed the author struggled to fill the pages.
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on September 13, 2013
I led a book group discussion of this inspiring biography. I'm not Catholic, but as a Christian and a human being, I was moved to look more for miracles and to serve more by reading about Mother Teresa in this well-written book. Also, I read the previous edition of this book a few years ago and I was pleased an mostly satisfied with the updates addressing criticism and other post-humous info on Mother Teresa, sainthood, etc.
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on August 26, 2000
As an authorised biography, this status alone bestows upon the tome an added weight of truth and accuracy. However, as Mother Teresa herself always wanted it to be, the book is more on her work than her life. She never wanted the attention to be forcused on herself but rather on the work. As she herself succinctly put it, she is merely a pencil in the hand of God. This book fills us in on the path which took Mother from her childhood in Albania to her days at the Loreto convent to her calling in a calling during her trip to Darjeeling to finally her establishment of the Missionaries of Charity and the result of which we have more than ample proof of now. It provides details on the trials and tribulations she faced and encounterd in the process of her work and how she overcame them with her determination and faith. This book provides the necessary details in mapping out a sketch of Mother's life and work. However fitting this tribute, we must not forget that Mother herself was the actual paradigm of chastity, poverty, obedience and service to the poorest of the poor. Nothing can ever truly introduce us to the scale of the greatness of Mother. Her legendary selflessness and selfishness truly brings us to our knees in shame. This book truly embodies the paragon of love and religion that was Mother. She was the epitome of a modern day Saint. She was a living Saint. May she rest in peace. She is finally at home with God.
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on March 28, 2008
"During her lifetime, Mother Teresa resisted having her biography written in full...in 1991, she gave Kathryn Spink, who had known Mother Teresa and been involved with her mission for thirteen years, to proceed with a full account of her life...It was also understood that the book would be completed only after Mother Teresa's death." This is part of the text from the inside of the front dust jacket of the book.

Few authors received this imprimatur of Mother Teresa. If for no other reason, this reason calls the inquirer of Mother Teresa's "life and views and of the work" (front jacket) to consider the book seriously.

It may amaze some Catholics to know that an authorized biographer of Mother Teresa is not a Catholic. Kathryn Spink is a Christian of sorts but not a Catholic. However, she loves the words and work of Mother Teresa and quotes Mother Teresa's opinion of the Missionaries of Charity as the, "most disorganized organization in the world" (Preface, vi). In that quote, it could be said, Mother Teresa was giving, indirectly, an answer to Christopher Hitchens caustic critique of her. It is hard for unbelievers to understand how disorder in the Church is evidence of the order of God--and yet it is, because God can write with broken pens.

There are no footnotes, no notes at all. However, there are many quotes that are gems in the thought and work of Mother Teresa including her Nobel Peace Prize Lecture (Appendix B). Some quotes are what Christian readers expect, "I said that even if they helped one person, that was all right. Jesus would have died for one person, for one sinner" (p. 87). Others quotes only non-Christians will appreciate, "You call him Ishwar some call him Allah, some simply God, but we all have to acknowledge that it is he who made us for greater things: to love and to be loved" (pp. 155-56). There is a short but adequate Index.

The style is intimate, enjoyable, and flowing from an obvious depth of knowledge of the subject addressed. There are a number of pictures in the center of the book that historically progress through her life as if taken from the family album.

There are a couple of criticisms about the book that need to be addressed. First, it does not confront Mother Teresa's adversaries. There is only an illusion to Mr. Hitchens and not by name (p. 275). Second, there is a lack of comments, interviews, and commentary from colleagues and associates. Third, there is plenty of data about her life but the depth of how each subject is handled sometimes seems a little thin.

In response to the second and third criticisms, authors are painfully aware of this formula, pages plus cost equal higher price plus less audience. Most people do not want to pay a fortune for a book and the numbers of books sold declines as the page number increases. In this instantaneous age, few have the attention span for longer books.

Those interested in Mother Teresa's thought should inquirer into Kathryn Spink's book, The Miracle of Love. It is a shorter work but a fruitful read.
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on November 21, 2012
Spink does a virtually unassailable job in her sturdy, by-the-numbers account of the life of Mother Teresa's entire life. Imagine her bio being written by someone objective, professional, ethical, and who had significant access to Mother and the circle of "helpers" in her astonishing life. Spink is not interested in being sentimental; she is interested in being accurate and keeps any bias she might have to a blessed minimum. Forget the maniacal raving and hysterical shrieking and flopsweat neurosis emanating like toxic waste from sybaritic roué-types like what's-his-name. What *was* his name? Funny, it doesn't seem to endure.

The name of Mother Teresa does, however, endure, and this well-written, organized, compact, fact-laden bio certainly delineates the many varied, complex, and breathtakingly simple reasons for that endurance. My recommendation is to buy this along with 'Come Be My Light' -- the collection of Teresa's letters to her spiritual directors published posthumously. Read the bio first for the facts and then delve into the mystery of her spiritual greatness via the letters.
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on September 16, 1998
A good introduction to Mother Teresa but limited by the nature of all 'authorised' versions in that the warts are not evident. There is not enough comment from the workers that surrounded her in Calcutta. I was looking for the day-to-day woman that in her own lifetime was recognised as a Living Saint. After having read the enthralling account of "THE Autobiography of Jesus of Nazareth..." by Richard Patton, I had expected a harder look at this Christian icon. Like Patton's book I wanted to 'realise' the Christ that Mother Teresa saw in everyone. This is an excellent primer for those that do not already have any other books on their shelves about Mother Teresa, but lacks the insight to her humanity - the insight which rightfully claimed her the title of "Living Saint".
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on June 17, 2004
Kathryn Spink writes an inspirational biography of Mother Teresa's life. Each mini story allows the reader to reflect on the common spiritual truths taught by Mother Teresa. Some of these truths are: "seeing Jesus in the destitute and dying" and "doing something ordinary, but with great love", among many others...
Filled with quotations and stories, it serves as a great devotional book if read in small chunks. It will challenge the seeker to feel closer to Christ as well as understand the extraordinary events in Mother Teresa's life.
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