cover image SCARRED BY STRUGGLE, TRANSFORMED BY HOPE: The Nine Gifts of Struggle


Joan D. Chittister, . . Eerdmans, $20 (111pp) ISBN 978-0-8028-1216-2

Chittister, a Catholic Benedictine nun who once dreamed of being a fiction writer, takes a major disappointment from her life and transforms it into a series of absorbing universal lessons in this book that is both contemplative and expository. The author (Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men) and lecturer tells how in the interest of "humility" she was instructed as a young nun to withdraw her application from a prestigious creative writing program and spend her summer as a camp cook. Although Chittister writes today as if she were still reeling from this disappointment's devastating blow, it is clear that in her struggle she found another way to express herself through writing. She ultimately discovered that she was still a writer, even though she was not free to write in the way she had hoped. Chittister uses the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God to further illustrate the struggle that she says is part of every life, pointing out how such encounters can lead to growth and new direction. But even as she writes of the "gifts" of struggle, she is candid about its dark side and lasting impact. After all, she notes, Jacob got up limping from his night of wrestling with God. It is clear from Chittister's reflections that she has navigated the territory of which she writes. Her message should appeal to a diverse audience of readers who want more than platitudes and pat answers to life's challenges. (Mar.)