Peter Manseau's deeply personal memoir is a meditation on family, church, faith and self. Oh, and God too. The story of rejecting the faith you are given, only to embrace it again in some form (or at least make peace with it) may seem familiar, but lost within the loving detail of Manseau's writing the reader discovers it anew. A spirit of tenderness and generosity permeates the pages of this story, but always leavened by unflinching honesty, the salt that keeps the flavor from the first page to the last. Manseau brings us into his sense of wonder as he traces the journey of his priest-father and his nun-mother who, if they had stayed true to their initial calling into the Catholic church, would have ensured he and his siblings never came to exist. Vows also brings us into the strong Boston Catholic culture of half a century ago, and near its end we find an unexpected left turn into the very heart of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman church in 2005. But however intrinsic to the book these elements are, they only inform the story, and never overwhelm it. Primarily, as he traces the journey first of his parents, and then himself, we are left with a sense of joy over seeing how life itself tends unruly and writes its own story while we are busy making our plans. And though religion itself is on every page of the book, in forms both personal and institutional, the heart of the book is its humanity.--Ed Dobeas
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From Publishers Weekly
The title says it all: a twin set of Catholic dreams and ideals gone awry—or holding fast, depending on what angle you're looking from. Manseau's memoir returns to the 1950s, the early years of his parents' devotion to the Church, and their eventual straying. Lawlor gives a solid reading of Manseau's story, which aches with the tenderness of a son's love for his parents. His voice occupies only a small range, shifting slightly to indicate emotion, affect or the speech of others, but adequately gets out of the way of Manseau's narrative. He chooses not to attempt the inimitable Boston accent of the book's characters, for the most part, wisely leaving the sound of their true voices to his listeners' imaginations. Lawlor stakes out a tone part nostalgic, part removed and part regretful, nicely duplicating the feel of Manseau's book and its conflicted feelings about the Church that so thoroughly dominated its protagonists' lives.
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