From Publishers Weekly
As a young child, freelance writer Chater learned from her parents that the reforms of Vatican II brought the Smoke of Satan into the Roman Catholic Church. Then one day her father announced that the family would be leaving its Northern California home and moving to Portugal so they could be closer to the true faith. That trip turned out to be a disaster, and this powerful memoir becomes increasingly grimmer as the Chaters return home and become involved in increasingly conservative religious groups plotting the Catholic counter-revolution, until being forbidden to wear modern clothes like blue jeans is the least of the teenage girls problems. Chater finds plenty of dark humor in the way her fathers religious obsessions blinded him to reality and led the family into financial hardship, but she never turns him into a cartoon villain. Even when he turns out to be a Confederate sympathizer and a monarchist, or after he kicks her and her sister out of the house for engaging in premarital sex, she handles his story with sensitivity and grace. Chaters memoir reminds us how easy it can be for ordinary families to get caught up in religious fervor, with emotionally devastating consequences that linger long after faith has been abandoned. (Feb.)
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Beautifully written and deeply affecting memoir…moving and, ultimately, so powerful. (Debra Ginsberg -Shelf-Awareness )
Short-story and magazine writer Chater brings an ear for dialogue and an eye for the absurd to this tragicomic debut memoir about coming of age in the 1970s in an ultraconservative Catholic family.The ordeals of such a childhood - the nuns, the rulers, the guilt - have long provided fodder for stand-up comedians, confessional autobiographies and even musical comedies. The author, one of 11 children, contributes to the canon in this painfully funny account. Her father, a state trooper and converted Catholic, was enraged by the Church's liberalization after the 1965 Vatican II Council. He scorned shorter veils for nuns, Mass conducted in English and parishioners standing for communion as "Vatican II." In church he ordered his children to close their eyes, clench their fists and refuse the blasphemous Handshake of Peace. Chater was taught that corruption of Catholic traditions would lead to communist world domination and trigger an apocalyptic scenario called the Holy Chastisement. Her father fantasized about moving the family to the miracle capital of Lourdes, France; when that plan fizzled, they settled for rural Portugal. Initially hopeful ("even the dogs were Catholic"), they discovered that Portugal was just as "Vatican II" as California. The family sunk into poverty and returned to America, marginalized and disappointed. Chater's father grew ever more fanatical. He banned his daughters from wearing pants, shipped his sons to a cultlike anticommunist Brazilian monastery and dragged the ever-larger and poorer family to a series of guerrilla parishes that met in abandoned storefronts and empty garages. The kids got intermittent emotional relief from their devout but eminently practical mother, so frugal that she chose an old mop as airplane carry-on luggage upon leaving Portugal. The memoir's tone shifts jarringly at the end, when the voice of Chater as a bemused child becomes that of an unhappy young woman. Still, that voice relates a compelling story with a dramatic climax. Affecting and unsparingly honest. (Kirkus Reviews )