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The Prison Angel: Mother Antonia's Journey from Beverly Hills to a Life of Service in a Mexican Jail [Kindle Edition]

Mary Jordan , Kevin Sullivan
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

The winners of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting tell the astonishing story of Mary Clarke. At the age of fifty, Clarke left her comfortable life in suburban Los Angeles to follow a spiritual calling to care for the prisoners in one of Mexico's most notorious jails. She actually moved into a cell to live among drug king pins and petty thieves. She has led many of them through profound spiritual transformations in which they turned away from their lives of crime, and has deeply touched the lives of all who have witnessed the depth of her compassion. Donning a nun's habit, she became Mother Antonia, renowned as "the prison angel," and has now organized a new community of sisters-the Servants of the Eleventh Hour—widows and divorced women seeking new meaning in their lives. "We had never heard a story like hers," Jordan and Sullivan write, "a story of such powerful goodness."

Born in Beverly Hills, Clarke was raised around the glamour of Hollywood and looked like a star herself, a beautiful blonde reminiscent of Grace Kelly. The choreographer Busby Berkeley spotted her at a restaurant and offered her a job, but Mary's dream was to be a happy wife and mother. She raised seven children, but her two unfulfilling marriages ended in divorce. Then in the late 1960s, in midlife, she began devoting herself to charity work, realizing she had an extraordinary talent for drumming up donations for the sick and poor.

On one charity mission across the Mexican border to the drug-trafficking capitol of Tijuana, she visited La Mesa prison and experienced an intense feeling that she had found her true life's work. As she recalls, "I felt like I had come home." Receiving the blessings of the Catholic Church for her mission, on March 19, 1977, at the age of fifty, she moved into a cell in La Mesa, sleeping on a bunk with female prisoners above and below her. Nearly twenty-eight years later she is still living in that cell, and the remarkable power of her spiritual counseling to the prisoners has become legendary.

The story of both one woman's profound journey of discovery and growth and of the deep spiritual awakenings she has called forth in so many lost souls, The Prison Angel is an astonishing testament to the powers of personal transformation.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After a wealthy childhood in Beverly Hills, two failed marriages and much spiritual searching, Mary Clarke put on a homemade habit and headed down to the most notorious prison in Tijuana, Mexico, where she has lived and worked since 1977. Alternately described as "a hustler," "a refreshing Coca-Cola in the desert" and "an oasis of purity," this intriguing Californian believes in the goodness of all people. Vicious murderers, deplorable dealers, society's drifters—Clarke, now known as Mother Antonia, ministers to all of them, brings them donated blankets, even convinces dentists to fix their rotting teeth and plastic surgeons to remove their gang tattoos. And all get hugs. Jordan and Sullivan, who report from Mexico for the Washington Post, paint a portrait of this remarkable woman with a light touch, rarely digressing into lyricism or political backstories. In fact, there are times when readers may feel that complex lives are oversimplified, and that the moral quandaries of Mother Antonia's universe are paved over. But the authors tell her stories simply, and with dignity, allowing Mother Antonia's passionate determination to come through without cliché and beautifully illustrating her rare approach to society's wayward and forgotten. Agent, Sterling Lord. (May 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

At 77, Mother Antonia lives among drug traffickers and other criminals in a jail cell in La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico, dispensing spiritual and material care to prisoners and their families. Jordan and Sullivan, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters with the Washington Post, spent three years researching the long, astonishing journey of a woman who, at the age of 50, left the comforts of suburban L.A. to begin a charity mission in Mexico. Twice divorced and with seven adult children, the former Mary Clarke brought a full lifetime of perspective to her work, attracting the attention of Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II, who blessed her mission. Despite her own poor health, Mother Antonia visits lepers, buries the dead who are unidentified, offers spiritual counseling to brutal prison guards, and squelches a riot when prisoners are overcome by their horrific living conditions. This is an inspiring story of one woman's compassion and her own journey of spiritual growth. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 346 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002CMP964
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #407,360 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put this book down! May 9, 2005
Mother Antonia is the essence of love, and yet she makes you laugh, makes you feel cherished, and makes you feel like a better person. She is so spunky and exudes life, and despite her small and short frame, she has stories that are so intense that it scares you, yet amazes you at how someone can love the unlovable so sincerely. This book captures her spirit and her overflowing love so well, and it also shows the other side of her, which is so courageous that she even stands up to some of Mexico's most notorious druglords. I wish that everyone could meet her, and that is why I am so excited that this book exists, so that everyone can have a chance to get to know what she is like. I read this book in a day because I could not put it down. There are so many on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories that it captures you. It made me think, laugh, cry, made me want to make more of my life, made me want to give, and helped me to love more. Mother Antonia is a gift and a blessing to everyone that meets her or reads her story.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prison Angel May 19, 2005
Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan have written a rare and intimate book, one that traces the densely complex life of an american housewife from the glades of beverly hills to the cold and violent cells of a mexican prison; rare because journalists seldom plumb inner lives, and intimate because they lived with mother antonia in the prison where she works. this volume is rare as well because as much as it chronicles a life of consumate goodness, it does so within the harsh and often deadly atmosphere of mexican criminal life, the drug wars, vendettas, vengeance and betrayals. i read this book in one sitting; it cannot be put down.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mary Clarke - an Irish beauty who grew up in Beverly Hills with neighbors including William Powell, Spencer Tracy, and Dinah Shore; married at age 19; divorced twice; successfully ran her father's company as a single mom of seven - now serves a "life sentence" in Tijuana's La Mesa prison. Clarke's journey from affluence to living in a prison cell "with rats, nasty smells, and nastier graffiti" is detailed in a captivating and inspiring book, "The Prison Angel," by authors Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan.

This is no ordinary story as Clarke's "life sentence" was a choice...a choice by her to leave a comfortable world and a family to live with and serve people nobody goes near, those suffering in prison - the poor unable to afford a good defense, those serving unjust sentences, those brutally beaten by guards and other inmates. Today, still a "beauty" at age 84, Clarke is known worldwide as Mother Antonia (La Madre Antonia), "The Prison Angel," a woman who has inspired millions over 33 years with her message of forgiveness and inclusion, and "her supernatural" goodness and love.

Mother Antonia felt she was at a crossroads in life while still in her forties. Her kids were just about out of the house and she was being drawn to works of charity. She inquired about becoming a nun but found that religious orders were only interested in young women. She felt that closing the door to older women who wanted to devote their lives to serving the Church just seemed wrong and later would change this.

Two priests influenced her direction. Monsignor Anthony (her name Antonia honors him) Brouwers who was devoted to missionary causes told her "Mary, your love for the poor is supernatural." And Fr.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those books that should be a movie! June 4, 2005
This is a very wonderful book!! It's the story of a Catholic nun, Mother Antonia, who is basically like another Mother Theresa, and their stories are quite different. Whereas Mother Theresa helped the poor, and realizing her calling joined the ranks of an order. This nun helps prisoners, and became a nun in a very roundabout way. Born into a rich life, she could have had anything she wanted. She grew up in the Hollywood of the 50s and 60s. And yet somehow this woman became a nun who served prisoners in the Mexican town of Tijuana. She LIVES there, in the prison itself! Very moving (and true) story of how someone who could have had it all CHOSE to live a life of humility, service, and love for Christ.

I absolutely loved it and it was one of those books where you can't help but smile with a tear in your eye, knowing that people like her still exist on this earth. I highly recommend it! :)
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interview with authors on Diane Rehm show 7/21/2005 July 22, 2005
There was an interesting interview with the authors on NPR on the Diane Rehm show 7/21/2005

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mother Antonia August 20, 2005
By R.J.
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a terrific biography. When you think about all the hype given to political biographies, ghost-written and self-serving; it is a great pleasure to read about a genuine, saintly, and totally giving human being. Don't just read it to learn about Mother Antonia . . . read it to change your life for the better.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Bright Point of Light in the Darkness June 21, 2005
It is amazing and wonderful that such people as Mother Antonia exist. She lives and works in the prison in one of Mexico's most notorious jails, a place I would be afraid to even visit. Just to read about her life is frightening.

It is also encouraging as we come to understand that one person can make a difference, that her innate goodness is repaid many times over by the prisoners under her care.

The two authors of this book won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Mexico's criminal justice system. They are an ideal pair to look at this small facet of the Mexican system.

It's an incredible story. Mother Antonia's ability to live this way and to have been able to convince others to help are a sign that maybe, must maybe things aren't as bad as they seem.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing read encouraging all of us to reevaluate our ...
A refreshing read encouraging all of us to reevaluate our own values of American wealth and materialism and to tweak our perspective to be grateful for what we have in America and... Read more
Published 10 hours ago by KW
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiritational, engaging biography of a modern day woman who should...
I hope this woman is sponsored for sainthood one day. Her story is truly amazing and very well told. This is an engrossing, engaging book that warms the heart. Read more
Published 14 days ago by nkadams
2.0 out of 5 stars like reading a documentary
Was not very well reading a documentary.
Published 16 days ago by Carol G Reeser
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very inspirational.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs. Catherine Cole-weber
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully inspiring and TRUTHFUL book about her
I knew Mother Antonia. Wonderfully inspiring and TRUTHFUL book about her. AMazing person. Anyone will find this touches their spirit and renews HOPE.
Published 1 month ago by Charisma
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
She was a wonderful woman but this just wasn't the book for me.
Published 1 month ago by Jlene Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good reading
Published 1 month ago by JoAnn DeLucrezia
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Inspiring, well-written.
Published 1 month ago by Ellie E Goolkasian
5.0 out of 5 stars She gave up Beverly Hills. . . to serve as a nun in one of the worst...
A truly incredible story. Some of the best books are those re: spiritual persons who truly LIVE their faith; not just talk about it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Helene Hoffman
5.0 out of 5 stars It was excellent!
This story really touched my heart. It was excellent!
Published 4 months ago by KP
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