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Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son Paperback – October 17, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
Vows is a smart book on the surface and a brilliant book beneath, a theological treatise well-disguised as a memoir that turns out to be a thriller. His arguments are more subtle -- and more moving -- than a brief against priestly celibacy. They are also natural arguments, which is to say that they emerge for the reader from the flow of a story and not from a didactic declaration. The most stunning achievement of this book is that its intellectual depth is matched so perfectly by its narrative force.
The final chapters of the book, in which Peter's mother, a former nun, hunts down the priest who abused her, are as gripping as a crime novel even as they present original ideas about the meanings of vengeance, justice, the Church as an institution, and the Church as an body of believers, prey to all the same weaknesses and failings as the flesh.
That shouldn't limit this book to those who think about religion. It is every bit as much a story of a family bound together, uneasily, by its loyalty to an institution that rejects it. It's the story of individual lives amidst the swirl of complicated, often dangerous beliefs -- about God, of course, but also about duty and promises and freedom.
Vows is a great and important book.
But once started on Vows, I wanted to keep going. Manseau displays a dazzling array of writing skills, moving flawlessly back and forth between his father the priest and his mother the nun, and from present to past. And Manseau has a gift of seeing the broader context of a story about ordinary people: a young man and a young woman, encouraged to "enter religion" in an era when vocations were higher than they've ever been, before or since, in the US.
Manseau reveals the truth behind the numbers. Some applicants felt truly called to the religious life; others had a little help from well-meaning mentors. And ultimately we learn that his mother's early religious history included stories of abuse that now seem all too commonplace.
A true storyteller, Manseau emphasizes the ironies of his life. By an odd series of coincidences and mistakes, his parents met in Roxbury and married. They remained loyal to the Catholic church, but their children rebelled. Manseau played video games while pretending to attend services - and grabbed a parish bulletin to take home to keep the peace.
The last third of the book presents an unsparing but often hilarious tale of Manseau's encounter with religion during his college years at University of Massachusetts. Manseau should be admired for me keeping awake for page after page of college memories: discarding an archeology major and digging for religion instead of artifacts. He avoids yet another trite "religious journey" story by focusing on the here-and-now, so that striking moments are presented with irony in the context of the mundane.Read more ›
This is no attack from the outside. Manseau is not an iconoclast for the sake of iconoclasm. Rather he tells the story of the love of his parents and their love of the Church, loving it so much they needed to betray some of its historical dictates in the hopes of creating something even more profound.
It also portrays the complexity of the 1960's as period in which individuals were exploring opportunities to make institutional changes through thoughtful, intellectual challenges. This view is often lost among the clichés of flowerchildren and stock footage of Woodstock.
And lastly, Manseau also pulls off a neat trick, managing to be funny and irreverent without ever losing respect for his subject. Who would think that you could refer to St. Augustine as "Mr. Singing-Farts," with all the honor and esteem due a Doctor of the Church?
It is an exceptional work.
This is a tale of defiance, of resistance to an institution that refused to adapt itself to the changing climate of the 60s, and one man's plight to drag it kicking and screaming into the modern world, if not return it to its original form - where celibacy among priests was optional.
The 60s history is captivating. The priest and nun met in the Roxbury area of Boston, during a tumultuous period in which race riots, fringe hippy movements, poverty, crime, alcoholism, and drugs were rife. Both were thrilled to 'bring the word to the streets', however unsavory this could be.
This book is not a manifesto against celibacy, but a very moving personal memoir about a family caught in the crosshairs of scandal, borne of resistance to the blind acceptance of tradition and of the unwillingness of the members of the Catholic administration to acknowledge its more 'unseemly' underbelly.
This book touched me because of something quite universal, yet increasingly rare: People willing to risk their livelihoods, their personal comforts, even their emotional well-being, for what they believe in. Although it is somewhat perplexing to me that the Manseaus remain proponents of an institution that won't have them or their children, perceived as "ex damnato coitu", their steadfast convictions and their son's fascinating account have earned my highest respect.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very good read for both secular and non-secular readers.Published 11 months ago by Eileen Olech, Ms
book arrived on time and was not in as good a condition as I would have liked but it did hold together and I was able to read without more damage..... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Mary L., Bennett
Amazing account of life entering religious orders. I learned a lot from this true story. Definitely would recommend this book !Published 13 months ago by Marie
The book is a reflection of a man's life with his parents as former priest and nun. The author bears all the mark of a revolutionary catholic of the 60's and 70's except the fact... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Michael Kiessling
Like a mystery novel, the author. ( the son of the priest and the nun of the book title), weaves a compelling story, integrating the history of his family with contemporary... Read morePublished on December 26, 2013 by Gloria L. Cordova
There are many aspects of the "post-Vatican II era" that have yet to be adequately researched. The disappearance of Catholic schools is one. Read morePublished on May 25, 2013 by Thomas J. Burns
I fully expected a mature, spiritual book about a young man raised by two people who happen to be a former priest and sister. It could have been a great book! Read morePublished on May 24, 2013 by V. Murray
I was introduced to Manseau by an op-ed piece he recently wrote in the NYT about his mother and father as a priest and nun who'd married and had a family on the occasion of the... Read morePublished on March 31, 2013 by Bartleby (scrivner)