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Astonished: A Story of Evil, Blessings, Grace, and Solace Hardcover – March 7, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

It wasn’t supposed to happen to someone like her—a middle-aged writer acclaimed for Riding in Cars with Boys (1990), which was made into a movie starring Drew Barrymore. Yet she was raped in her own bed in her home in Mexico. It is a chilling story, and in this compelling, spiritually fulfilling memoir, Donofrio takes the reader through that terrible night and its aftermath. But this is more than a straightforward description of a crime; it is a story of healing and even, as the title indicates, grace. Donofrio was attacked at the time she was thinking about joining a monastery, and the rape made her reconsider not only her life but also her faith. Anyone who has been the victim of a crime will appreciate Donofrio’s honesty and sympathy, but her memoir is for everyone who appreciates a story well told. It is an unsparing but also hopeful account of evil, misery, and suffering, as well as joy, goodness, and forgiveness. Don’t run from the pain, she writes. She doesn’t. Instead, Astonished transcends it. --June Sawyers


Praise for Astonished by Beverly Donofrio:
“This is the story of a sabbatical, but not from teaching. After being raped in Mexico, Donofrio lives in retreat houses in the American West where she confronts the evil forces that file through the hole in her soul created by the rape. She cries, prays, watches birds and throttles her narcissism. Spiritually sore, she comes to understand St. Paul’s words: ‘When I am weak, I am strong.’ An ardent feminist, she forgives and undergoes a sea change in the desert. Written with mordant humor, searing honesty, and an eye for the mysteries of love, nature and monkish life.”
J. Michael Lennon, Salon.com (selected for Salon’s Ultimate Book Guide for 2013)

“Reading Donofrio’s memoir, Astonished, is, in itself, an astonishing experience. She grapples with her faith in ways and in words that startle, move, mesmerize, wrench, enliven, and thrill the reader. It is a narrative composed of brutal honesty, tenderness, and an aching love for God. I could not put it down.”
Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees

“A smart, funny memoir about a woman seeking answers to some very hard questions. . . . Donofrio’s intelligent and down-to-earth delivery gives [Astonished] a meditative feel. For her,'bringing God into the picture makes me pay closer attention.’ Her writing does the same thing for us. Her bravery helps. She holds nothing back.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“The brutally honest author of Riding in Cars with Boys reveals how a terrifying brush with a rapist sparked her spirituality and set her on a journey of recovery paved with prayer.”
O Magazine
"What’s most compelling, besides Donofrio’s simultaneously warm and tough-as-nails voice, is the openness of her heart toward good old-fashioned faith, and her willingness to accept God into her life, if she could only figure Him out. . . . The fact that she was able to take such ugliness and transform it into the beauty of this book is a stunning accomplishment."
The Daily Beast

"Donofrio’s journey around the country and into her inner life is compelling material beautifully written. Perpetually humble, searching, honest and wry, Donofrio is a fine companion for a spiritual journey."
"It is an unsparing but also hopeful account of evil and misery and suffering as well as joy and goodness and forgiveness. 'Don’t run from the pain,' Donofrio writes. She doesn’t. Instead, Astonished transcends it."

"Best known for Riding in Cars with Boys (1990), her first memoir about her teenage pregnancy and single motherhood, the author was raised Catholic. ... Her story is one of reconciliation ... [and] the conclusion of her journey, following her torrent of questions for and about divine power, lies in her realization that her faith is unshakeable and her attack, ultimately, showed her the heart of God. Honest, engaging, and cathartic."
Kirkus Reviews

"As beautiful as it is authentic, Astonished is one of the most compelling, appealing, and instructive spiritual autobiographies I have read in many a year.
Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why
“An insightful, candidly unfolding, soul-bearing journey to grace.”
Publishers Weekly

“To me, Beverly Donofrio is part Abigail Thomas, part Anne Lamott, part Kathleen Norris, and 100 percent original. Terrifying and, at moments, terribly funny. Candid, compelling, and, above all else, wise. Here's Beverly Donofrio, the rebellious teenager and tough single mother from Riding in Cars with Boys, forty years later, still vulnerable, still resilient, tested and tempered by life, and finally forging her own peace. Astonished is a seeker's and writing woman's spiritual journey through doubt and despair, emerging in cowboy boots, green tights, and prayer.”
Sara Pritchard, author of Crackpots and Help Wanted: Female

"Anyone who can read Bev Donofrio's first paragraph and stop should be interdict for life from libraries and bookstores. She is one first-class human being and, to my mind, a down-and-dirty saint. I'm grateful for the privilege of being invited into her radiant soul."
William J. O'Malley, S.J., author of The Fifth Week

"Expect lots from this memoir by Donofrio, as she’s already made her mark in this genre: her best-selling Riding in Cars with Boys was translated into 16 languages and made into a film, while Looking for Mary was a Discover Great New Writers pick. Here she writes about living in Mexico, where she studied yoga, drank margaritas, and began hungering for religious experience. One night she awoke with a rapist in her bedroom and a knife at her throat. In a book begun at the Nada Hermitage in Colorado, where she was a lay Carmelite for four years, Donofrio recounts facing down her subsequent anger and fearfulness and learning to embrace life, even as she spent time in five monasteries hoping to touch the face of God. With a five-city tour."
Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (March 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025756
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,150,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
ASTONISHED is not the story of a victim. Rather, it is a remarkably open, forthcoming exploration of a woman's developing faith in both God and humanity. It is a story of living. "I want to be different," Beverly writes at the beginning of her journey, "to peel off masks, my make-believes, lipstick, to stop making things bigger, more and better, telling white lies improving on, giving an impression." It is with this attitude that she lays out her experience, leaving it bare for the reader to examine and dissect as we follow her to monasteries, chapels, cabins in the woods, and the sometimes-hard-to-navigate intersection where spirituality meets the secular world.

It is difficult to read this memoir without finding yourself, along with the author, pondering the complexities of faith, considering good and evil and what they each entail. Bev's candid descriptions of her growing connection with God offer a rare, raw glimpse into the process of personal growth. And she offers it graciously, without judging others, in the matter-of-fact style that is characteristic of her writing. With its blunt discussion of evil, rape, religion, God, and self-discovery, this is a thought-provoking book-and, in light of current events, a timely opportunity for dialogue about topics often considered taboo.

ASTONISHED is a memoir that resonates, and Beverly Donofrio's story is an inspiration. It will stay with you long after the final page.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I chose this memoir in part because of the settings, primarily in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and in various monasteries. San Miguel is close to my own heart, and I was curious to see how the author got from that town full of art and life to living in a monastery and how she experienced and interpreted that new life. It's an authentic, honest, and courageous spiritual journey. The milagros on the cover hint at the everyday miracles of life, the personal journeys we all make to get from here to there. Ms. Donofrio touches hearts.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Confused by conflicting messages of how we need to live as followers of Christ people pray for understanding. In “Astonished,” Beverly Donofrio prays for the same things most of us do. But she doesn’t stop with prayer. She removes herself from the busyness of life to reside at a number of monasteries where she dares to ask difficult questions and delves into her soul to answer them. “Astonished” takes readers on a journey; a journey of courage to face our fear, a journey of wonder and awe at the majesty of God and a journey where we embrace the wisdom to love the spiritualness of our daily lives. Beverly Donofrio talks to readers in an honest, down to earth manner with sometimes humorous, sometimes irreverent insights. And she manages it all with dignity and grace.I love it.
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Format: Hardcover
What a gutsy, shocking, spiritual, funny, humble, honest ride this book is. In addition to how well it is written, what I loved most about the book was Bev's gifted capacity to clearly and deeply unfold her unique, unreapeatable spiritual journey with wisdom and universality, without offering or prescribing simplistic answers to the deep questions she poses. It was also my first experience of reading a book about people and environments I know, well. Ironically, it was almost surreal in its utter reflection of reality. I am grateful for a reading experience that provided a sense of spiritual direction. I loved it and was deeply moved by it. Bev is a courageous pilgrim whose path has and will touch, affirm and encourage countless people. Finally, I am honored to have my poetry under the same cover with such fortunate and compelling writing.
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Too much emphasis on Mary,( Jesuses mother) for me, Also I'm not catholic, although I did appreciate more info on their faith and my husband is very disgusted with the catholic faith and no longer believes in the church., so he didn't even want to discuss her book with me, and their doctrine, which may have helped. Just felt it was sort of pushed at you, even though that may not have at all been her intention. Still came off that way to me. It seems as if this book is a catharsis for Beverly after the horror of the rape, that she went through, Just awful. Less a story for me, and almost a story to and for herself, and somewhat diary like, although, not written in diary format. Many of her insights on God, were interesting, and I'm glad she is searching for him, as I am. Enjoyed being reminded of him and Jesus sometimes in the book. Disappointed, I think she could have done much better, and this is her second book about Mary. Would like to read something different from her.
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Format: Hardcover
Astonished is Beverly Donofrio's very personal story of being attacked in her own home and seeking spiritual grace in monasteries, but it also resonates on so many levels as a universal story -- whatever our own particular sorrow and path to solace may be. Donofrio writes with such assurance that you gladly follow her on her quest, and her remarkable gift for no-holds-barred openness and genuine reflection make for a never-a-dull-moment journey and one startlingly honest book.
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By NBD on November 2, 2015
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I usually enjoy this author, but this was not a favorite. She seemed to dwell on the tragedy and not move on. There were many good things in the book to think about and I admire her determination to "find herself". However, I found the whole process difficult to relate to and unrealistic.
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