The Ironic Christian's Companion: Finding the Marks of God's Grace in the World

Patrick Henry, Author
Patrick Henry, Author Riverhead Books $23.95 (273p) ISBN 978-1-57322-107-8
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-1-57322-782-7
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Henry, executive director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, writes in a breezy, conversational style that is likely to have considerable popular appeal. He describes his book as a ""field guide,"" an allusion that should tip readers both to its exploratory tone and to its inherent invitation to exploration. Those who can comfortably meander among ambiguity, puzzlement and questions posed with varying degrees of clarity will find the approach congenial. As the title implies, ""irony"" is the guiding metaphor, both influencing and influenced by Henry's ""conversation partners,"" ranging from Edwin Abbott (author of the science fiction classic Flatland), Lewis Carroll, Erasmus, Keats, and Milan Kundera to Mark Vonnegut, who was a student of Henry's. The range is dazzling. The experience of reading this book is something like sitting at the kitchen table with a garrulous uncle: connections and significance aren't always clear, but many of the stories are entertaining. And the sitting is therapeutic--for Uncle Patrick as well as his audience. Particularly in recurring references to the suicide of Henry's father, there is a sense of working through a constant experience of loss and ambiguity: ""All that is solid melts into air."" For the author, this calls not for despair but for exploration motivated by wonder. Henry identifies sources as ""conversation partners,"" and he includes an ""index"" for pointers to God presented in the order in which they appear in the book. Those who require ""neat, brief"" answers rather than fieldwork are well advised to stay at home and heed Henry's warning that ""this book is not for you."" (Mar.)
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