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How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem Hardcover – April 14, 2015

4.4 out of 5 stars 97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sometimes a book comes along that you want to press into the hands of everyone you know. A brilliant, searingly honest account of one man's path to real healing, and an invitation to the rest of us to join him." (Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Miracles and Bonhoeffer)

"We will use How Dante Can Save Your Life in our classrooms because it makes the Divine Comedy live in a person—and students need to experience this. I look forward to the rest of you finding in Dreher’s book the wit, wisdom, and application of the great poem to a small life." (John Mark Reynolds, provost of Houston Baptist University and author of When Athens Met Jerusalem)

"By weaving his own pilgrimage into Dante's, Rod Dreher makes Dante accessible and, more important, compelling. He has assimilated what is most urgent in Dante and by grafting it to his own story he makes the Divine Comedy passionately real. This is certainly the book for those who previously have only come across Dante as a name. Equally important, it provides fresh insights to those of us who are already hooked." (Ronald B. Herzman, State University of New York at Geneseo and co-teacher of The Great Courses lectures on The Divine Comedy)

About the Author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative and the author of Crunchy Cons and The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. His work has appeared in numerous publications including the New York Post, the Dallas Morning News, National Review, First Things, and the Wall Street Journal, and broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered and BBC Radio. He lives in St. Francisville, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Regan Arts.; First Edition edition (April 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1941393322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1941393321
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #99,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Divine Comedy" by Dante Aligheri is widely accepted to be one of the great works of human creativity, expressing universal truths about human nature. Anything that leads a reader to read "Divine Comedy" is a good thing. To the extent that this book, "How Dante Can Save Your Life" does that, it is useful.

Beyond that, however, it is hard to sort out exactly what this book is. The body of each chapter weaves description and summary analysis of a selected canto or two of "Divine Comedy" with autobiographical passages on how that canto (allegedly) applied to the author’s life. A text box of watered-down and not all that helpful self-help tips appears at the end of the chapter. Some credit is due the author for those portions that directly discuss "Divine Comedy" as they include interesting takes and ideas, especially in the "Purgatorio" and "Paradiso" parts. But I'm generally familiar with "Divine Comedy" -- I fear somewhat for the reader of this book who has not read "Divine Comedy", as the content of this book seems to assume some level of familiarity even though it says none is assumed. So as an introduction to "Divine Comedy" to the unfamiliar, this book may work to a limited extent.

But this book is more an over-sharing autobiography than anything else. The author apparently believes that his personal journey toward healing using "Divine Comedy" will serve as an example of how the reader can do the same. But this is an odd approach: "Divine Comedy" on its own beautifully accomplishes this already, in a way that applies to all humans and all manner of sin.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased this book with high hopes. I have never read Dante and liked the idea of a personal journey through a piece of classic literature. The problem is that the journey was uncomfortably personal. Dreher is way too free with his family's history, grudges, conversations and failings. He comes to the conclusion that he is to love his family whether they show him love and acceptance or not, but I fail to see how this book will do anything but further the strain or sever those relationships. I also wonder how his therapist, Mike, and his priest, Father Matthew, feel about the book and the fact that their private conversations are in it.

My biggest critique is that this book is 75% about Dreher and 25% about Dante. Dreher seems obsessed with how he thinks and reacts. Throughout the book, he uses narrative techniques to talk about himself: "I took a sip from the large plastic tumbler of ice water I kept with me at all times, since the Epstein-Barr virus left me perpetually thirsty" (p. 172). The book becomes less a testimony and more a personal narrative in which he is the hero. And he says as such (p. 219). This was distasteful. If people who talk about themselves all the time bug you, you might want to pass on this book. Dreher is the main character and everyone else--even Dante--only has a supporting role.

Dreher's analysis of Dante, when it is allowed to muscle between Dreher's storytelling and introspection, is good. I wanted more of it. I really want to read The Divine Comedy, so there is that.

Another problem with the book is that Dreher seems to have an epiphany every chapter. This is just unrealistic. He also seems to equate epiphany with growth and learning with change.
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Format: Hardcover
I follow Rod Dreher on Twitter, read his previous book The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and read a lot of what he writes for The American Conservative, so when he began blogging through The Divine Comedy I read his posts on it with great interest. Dante’s Comedy is my favorite book and one I’ve read and reread for many years. When Dreher announced that the Comedy would be the subject of his next book I was elated, and preordered a copy. I couldn’t disagree with the title: How Dante Can Save Your Life. He has certainly changed mine. I was not surprised, reading Dreher’s columns, that he responded to it, too.

How Dante Can Save Your Life picks up in the years following the events of his other memoir, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, which chronicles his sister’s fight with cancer. Following her death, Dreher had picked up and, after decades away from home, moved back to Louisiana, trying to reconnect and mend tattered relationships with his family. Little Way was the story of how he came to do that. How Dante Can Save Your Life is the story of how his attempt failed.

Despite returning home, Dreher recounts that his relationships with family—especially his father and nieces—were terrible. I like Dreher a lot and value his opinions, but having read his work for several years now, he strikes me as a classic oversharer. Reading Little Way, I could only wonder, despite being moved to tears, what his family thought of such a soul-baring memoir. In my experience, a tell-all—even an affectionate, nostalgic tell-all—alienates people. This book gave me an answer: “I showed Mike the manuscript of Little Way before I turned it in, and asked him to let me know if he wanted me to make any changes. He did not ask for changes, but as I learned later, the book displeased him greatly.
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