Tuesday, January 19, 2010

REVIEW: Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel Of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, by Diane Schoemperlen

Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel Of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, by Diane Schoemperlen. Published by Penguin, 2002. Fiction.

I read Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel Of Mary, Faith, and Friendship, by Diane Schoemperlen, for my book club several months ago. I've mentioned my bookclub before- the Daughters of Abraham, an interfaith Christian-Jewish-Muslim club which meets to read and discuss books on the three faith groups. I suggested Our Lady to the club as a book about Catholicism since it deals with the Blessed Virgin and the many myths and stories surrounding her. I was actually named for her and she's a saint who's been very important in my life, and I found this book fascinating and illuminating.

It's the fictional story of an unnamed woman, a writer, who is visited by the Virgin for a week. Just back from some time in Mexico, Mary is tired and needs a break and chooses to spend a sort of vacation with this solitary, thoughtful and introspective woman. Together they do nothing extraordinary; they talk, they eat, they spend normal everyday time together. In between this rather mundane action, the narrator recounts a number of anecdotes, stories and legends that have grown up around Mary. She tells well-known stories like her apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, as well as lesser-known stories from America, Europe and elsewhere. All but one of the stories she tells are true (in the sense of being documented elsewhere). The narrator does some serious thinking about her own faith and I found myself skimming some of those passages; she wasn't fleshed out enough for me to really care and I wanted to get back to reading about Mary.

I enjoyed reading Our Lady generally, both because I enjoyed reading about Mary's appearances and because I found the book to be otherwise well-written, thoughtful and respectful. I wouldn't have enjoyed something critical, or satirical, or irreverent when it comes to this particular subject. I think Our Lady would be a great book for book clubs (it generated great conversation in mine) and for readers who enjoy books about religion that are nonetheless not dogmatic or didactic or particularly pushy about doctrine. I don't enjoy didactic religious fiction and read very little; I would describe Our Lady as culturally Catholic without being religious per se, even though it centers on one of the most beloved figures in the Catholic universe. If you've ever wanted to learn more about Mary and her stories, Our Lady of the Lost and Found is an offbeat book that just might work for you.

Rating: BACKLIST

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.