A Bit Late to the Game (book review)

I know I’m a bit late to the game on this contemporary women’s fiction novel, but I give five stars to Nicholas Sparks’s The Notebook because the story touched my heart.

The suffering involved in this beautiful story reveals (to a world that commonly and unfortunately links romance with Hollywood-hype) that true love, romantic love, grows via pain (emotional and/or physical). Sparks’s writing intertwines poetry, descriptions of nature, a fluid flashback narrative, and imperfect characters who (whether they know it or not) deeply trust that the human body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and that marriage is a union of souls. I can feel the Catholic heart of this novel…even though I do not hear any overt evangelization. It is a beautiful love story.

(and, no, I did not see the movie…I enjoyed the book so much and did not want to undermine the reading experience.)

Side-note: I think the original book cover art (on all Sparks’s novels) accurately reveals the book more than the movie still-shot book cover version. (That being said, I understand and respect the marketing effort.)

“Joan of Arcadia”

I have professed it repeatedly…I’ll say it many times again…it is such a shame, a creative and spiritual loss to the television viewing masses, that creator and producer Barbara Hall’s “Joan of Arcadia” never made it past season two.

Throughout the series (insert sigh of exasperation over the truncated life of this message-filled show), one of my all-time favorite mother characters Helen Girardi (played by Mary Steenburgen) prays, hopes and emotionally and intellectually struggles with her Faith. During one of her initial trials with her maternal-optimism failing her lonely, aching heart, she walks by and then quickly returns to chat with (interrogate, actually) a Catholic priest, Father Ken Mallory (played by David Burke). Ah, Father Ken…a realistic portrayal of a gentle, knowledgeable, humble, compassionate, Faith-filled, insightful man…a great priest! How refreshing to see a Catholic priest on a TV show depicting a priest (or many priests!) that so many of us know and love in our own real lives.

Watch a few episodes of “Joan of Arcadia” and listen to the love and wisdom of God in Father Ken’s own words. I especially cherish his words to Helen (in the episode “death be not whatever”) when she is confiding in Father Ken that she has been meeting with him behind her husband’s back (Will Girardi, the chief of police and fallen away Catholic, played by Joe Mantegna):

Father Ken: “Helen, I think what you’re touching on here is you should be talking to your husband and you miss being able to do that.”

Helen: “But you don’t understand what kind of job he has, and it’s especially bad right now. I just can’t make it worse for him.”

Father Ken: “I’ve married a lot of people, and I remember the words. You’re depriving him of the privilege of living up to them.”

Helen: “Well…when you put it like that.”

What an affirmation of the holy vocation of marriage!

So, thank you, Barbara Hall for your gift of Joan: the clever and provocative script writing, and the deep, realistic, intriguing characters, such as the beloved Father Ken.

And let’s all remember to pray for vocations and for our priests. We need them…our world needs them!