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4.8 out of 5 stars
Pope Awesome and Other Stories
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I've been reading Cari's blog for about 2 years now. (If you haven't found it yet, you really must.) She's funny and insightful, and the stories she shares there have often ended with me in tears. Tears of side-splitting laughter, tears of profound joy, tears of been-there-done-that camaraderie. This book is no exception.

Cari GETS it. She gets life, she gets motherhood, she gets comedy. Most importantly, she gets so much about the spiritual world that many of us cradle Catholics take for granted (or flat out ignore). I was handed the gift of faith as an infant, and although I've had my struggles coming to terms with Catholicism's teachings, I've never had to question too hard or look too deep; the truth was always close at hand. Donaldson, on the other hand, had to peel away layer after layer of what society had given her as a belief-system to find the core meaning of her existence and her relationship with God. And she did it with a tenacity that would shame the rest of us, if she were not so gracious and so. dang. funny.

If you're a Catholic, read this book. It will make you proud to be so. If you or someone you know is considering converting to Catholicism, I also highly recommend this book. It's a great look at the thought process many converts go through, but in a highly readable format.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
One of the oldest adages in the reading world is "Never judge a book by its cover." I would add to that, "Never judge a book by its title." I'm guilty of being a book snob; with the recent boom in Catholic publishing, there are now hundreds of books published every year to assist us in deepening our faith. Therefore, I try to CAREFULLY scrutinize every book I request to review, because I don't want to waste my time reading something heretical or a unfulfilling. I make exceptions to that rule if you are a Pope, or a Cardinal or your name is Scott Hahn, Mike Aquilina, or Edward Sri. When Pope Awesome and Other Stories showed up on my desk, I was skeptical. This book, on the surface, didn't seem to meet the criteria of the books I usually review, but I decided to grudgingly give it a try, but ONLY because I trusted the book's publisher, Sophia Institute Press.

Pope Awesome and Other Stories is Cari Donaldson's spiritual memoir that tracks her life from an apathetic Presbyterian teen to a Catholic homeschooling mom of six, with a whole lot of New Age atheism and soul-searching in between. How does one get from her Point A to Point B, with that much darkness in between? In a word, God. As Mrs. Donaldson points out, despite all the plans we make and the running we do from God, if God wants us, He will ultimately get us. God's plan for our lives always reigns supreme.

So what makes Cari's life story different from other converts out there? Is it unique, different, and extraordinary? No. However, she weaves her conversion seamlessly into these stories of family life that will have you laughing one minute and choking up near tears the next. How the book got its name is particularly funny, but you'll have to read the book to learn the story. I also found it refreshing that she didn't try and hide anything from the reader. Her life is an open book...this book. It's something I could never do, but she doesn't mind sharing her story with you..."warts and all."

If you're looking for a heart-warming and side-splitting read this coming year, this is the book for you. Even though I knew the eventual outcome (her conversion to Catholicism), I was broken up by her spiritual wandering and kept hoping that she would figure it out quickly and come home to the Catholic Church. Her successes became my successes. Her failures were my failures. Reading this book was like catching up with an old friend you haven't talked to in years. Hopefully, she will write a sequel and we'll get to hear more about Pope Awesome and his siblings. I enthusiastically recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I tore through this wonderful conversion story. Lively and engaging from start to finish, funny, flawlessly paced, and sometimes profound. Just loved it. (Review by Simcha Fisher. I can't persuade the computer I'm not Damien T. Fisher.)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
My feelings about this book could be summed up with an email I sent to the author:

"I am reading your book right now, and I feel like you wrote it just for me. I too grew up (still live) in Michigan. I went to State (2008), and had a conversion after spending years doing a lot of things that I am still not proud of. So, thank you for writing this book. I feel like you are helping me make sense out of my past - a past which is very painful for me."

This book is equal parts charming, informative, hopeful and enjoyable. And it's funny too. Just read it already!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
The writing was so enjoyable and engaging,and the story so compelling, I had to force myself to put the book away a little over halfway through in order to avoid staying up all night.

I LOVE the humorous footnotes. I have not enjoyed footnotes like that since reading Will Cuppy's "The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody." My favorite kind of footnotes. I wish she had put 100 more of them in the book.

I love how the author describes how a painting of Mary moved her heart to realize what she was searching for. I love the "contraband" Catholic medal. Such a lovely personal touch to this story!

And the ending? Oh my! It is the most lovely ending I have ever read to any book. It is the mostest, bestest, "feel-good" ending you could imagine. In my opinion. Beautifully chosen and written! It was the perfect event to sum up the story.

This story of a soul, longing for God, the REAL God, and His truth (and nothing but the truth), is something I relate to perfectly. It has just been a few short weeks since God dared to even hint to me that what I had been searching for my whole life could be found in the Catholic Church (He knew my upbringing and knew when I would be open to the possibility--after ruling out everything else and realizing where I had gaping holes that needed to be filled in my personal knowledge and by Him). I related almost identically to many moments in this book--and hope to continue on the same path. After reading the Amazon Preview, which cut me short very near the author's sharing of an emotional state like to my very own current one, I knew it was what God was sending me to help me through a difficult night. And thank God for Kindle and the ability to have the whole book in less than five seconds. So, I'm not Catholic yet, but praying passionately every day, and letting God take me there if He will (begging Him to do so, actually).

Learning about the Catholic faith from scratch can be very overwhelming. I can only look up little bits at a time and process what I'm learning--which means throwing out everything I was told, and relearning what I'm finding to be historically and Biblically true. Bit by bit. I liked the referral to "Catholicism for Dummies." I think I'm going to go get that one now! It is hard to know where to start, but God will lead. Faithful Shepherd. He always does. He led me to this book!

The only thing I would have liked to see is photos: Like that Jessica McClintok dress, and the painting of Mary, and that "Catholic Contraband" Medal, and the church with the turquoise roof.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
WOW. Laugh out loud funny with everyday stories about raising children and finding God. This woman can be the new Erma Bombeck. Although I am not a Catholic yet, but a Christian, I found Cari Donaldson's journey to finding God inspiring and follow-able. The travels her family goes through are heartwarming and loveable. The writing is very good and frankly, I could not put the book down until I had finished it. I was transported to wherever she was in her book following her and mesmerized while looking over her shoulder as her story unfolded. I cannot wait for her next book!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Pope Awesome gives hope to the hopeless, laughs to frowners, and showers all of us with wonderfully appropriate sass. Ms. Donaldson doesn't mess around and gets straight to the heart of matters. She proves that she who seeks will find God, often resulting in a life that resembles virtually nothing that we'd originally planned. As you'll see, that's a good thing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
Cari Donaldson is an intelligent, logical, and witty storyteller. I can't wait to reread this, next time with a highlighter, because this was rich with beautiful turns-of-phrase. I read in one review a criticism about this book containing too many birth stories, but I disagree. As a memoir covering a specific period of Cari's life, one couldn't expect her to ignore such life-altering details. Moreover, as a mother myself, I can appreciate how pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood all can spark existential questions and galvanize one's faith.

My take: Cari's quest to find the right spiritual home, deliberately ignoring Christianity and Catholic Church specifically until it became clear that this was the only answer, is a wonderful read for fellow Catholics, converts, and those interested in what leads others into the Church. I am a life-long Catholic, and I found that her reasoning on matters of faith enhanced and strengthened my own understanding. I especially appreciated Cari's candid exploration into Catholic teaching on marital sexuality and sanctity of life, which are often roadblocks to others getting "on board" with the Church. Through moments of poignancy, epiphany, and comedy, Cari breaks down the barriers of her preconceived notions on religion and spirituality and opens herself up to a new Truth and life as a Catholic.

If you are deciding whether to buy this or Jennifer Fulwiler's "Something Other Than God," I say get both! Both women ended up finding a home in the Catholic Church, but their journeys and thought-processes getting there were very different. Both provide a lot of insight and wit, and are worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I first stumbled upon Cari Donaldson's writing about a month ago in an article about Pope Francis through Catholic Exchange. Her writing really touched me and when I looked her up to read more, I found about her book and blog. I read the book in one sitting. (Only interrupted by feeding my children, helping with a few math problems, bathing the youngest and putting the cherubs to bed). Reading the book was like catching up with a dear friend. I laughed, cried and had to read parts out loud to the rest of the family. I am a cradle Catholic and although I never ventured too far from the faith I did go through a similar time of conversion and discovery where I needed learn and accept actual Church teachings instead of my own form of Catholicism. Cari's account of her transformation to being prolife is particularly touching and echo's my own journey - although I've never had the words to express it as she does. Turns out I'm a neighbor to Cari here in Connecticut and on behalf of my state I apologize for the insensitivity that Cari experienced here. I'll just say that we're not all mean, it just takes us a little time to get to know you and many of us do see children as great blessings!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I first fell in love with the writing of Cari Donaldson when I read her conversion story on Catholic Exchange. Pope Awesome is a better fleshed out re-telling of that journey interspersed with kid comedy and birth stories.

When she talks about "God's fingerprints" on her life, I both marvel at the turn of phrase and start to recognize His fingerprints in my own life, and occasionally the muddy bootprint to the backside.

When Cari talks about "unclenching her fists" and letting God take control, I know exactly what she means. Frightening and thrilling at the same time.

I have to say my favorite chapter is "Conversion Means to Turn." Even the chapter title gives me chills.

As I said the other day, I cried, I laughed, I cried some more with a smile on my face. See, Cari essentially wrote her own birth story, and like all birth stories, it's a comedic drama with raw pain, raw love, and bodily fluids splashed all over the place.

I was telling a friend all about the book the other night and I was brought to tears just trying to explain the beauty of Cari's story.
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