Looking for Mary: Or, the Blessed Mother and Me

Beverly Donofrio, Author, Jorge Alberto Asato Espana, Illustrator
Beverly Donofrio, Author, Jorge Alberto Asato Espana, Illustrator Viking Compass $23.95 (246p) ISBN 978-0-670-88459-9
Paperback - 246 pages - 978-0-14-019627-6
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Stereotypes abound concerning pilgrims to the Bosnian village of Medjugorje (where the Virgin Mary has allegedly been appearing since 1981), who claim to witness all manner of miracles: spinning suns, medals of the Virgin turning to gold, Mary herself scurrying down a street in a gray gown. Donofrio's new book, which took shape as a series on National Public Radio, explodes these stereotypes. It begins when, against all logic, the author begins flooding her home with images of the Virgin. Donofrio follows a hunch by going to Medjugorje, as a writer rather than a devotee, but that pretense quickly dissolves. She becomes a believer, though not in any cookie-cutter, uncritical sense. Listening to a stern Franciscan berate pilgrims in Medjugorje, she says, ""I do not want to be a crazy, sign-seeing, rose-smelling, rigid, right-to-life Catholic""Dand though she sees signs and smells roses before long, she avoids both insanity and rigidity. Donofrio forges her own relationship with Mary, expressed partly through the institutional Catholic Church and partly despite and around it. While the crises in her own lifeDa troubled relationship with her son, a series of failed love affairs and unresolved ambiguities about an abortionDpropel Donofrio's quest, this chronicle does not read like an exercise in wish-fulfillment. It feels rather like the story of a woman who, after decades of seeking, found her mother, and through her, discovered herself. (Aug.)
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