cover image Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty

Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty

Kate Hennessy. Scribner, $27.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-5011-3396-1

Dorothy Day, named a Servant of God by the Vatican, was just “Granny” to Hennessy. In this intimate, detailed biography, Hennessy depicts her grandmother as a very human being. By the third chapter, Day has been jailed, failed at suicide, chosen abortion, lived in sin, and borne a daughter out of wedlock. Then she converted to Roman Catholicism and eventually founded the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality. Hennessy’s memoir emphasizes Day’s role in her family: mothering her daughter, Tamar Hennessy (often discordantly), and grandmothering Tamar’s nine children (Hennessy is the ninth). The memoir spills as much about Tamar as about Day. Tamar moved often with her children and spinning wheel, always dragging along her deflating self-esteem. Hennessy quotes Day’s love letters to Tamar’s father and interviews Tamar about her memories. She also weaves in lines from Day’s columns for the Catholic Worker newspaper, splices in the Hennessy siblings’ stories, embeds quotes, and reveals the backstory of a magnetic woman who was “not always a clear-eyed visionary.” Hennessy has created an amazing tapestry of Day’s life and the memories she left with her loved ones. (Jan.)