cover image FACE TO FACE: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening

FACE TO FACE: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism, and Awakening

, . . Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25 (267pp) ISBN 978-0-86547-558-8

From Judith Roche's poem about angels to Mohja Kahf's reflections on growing up Muslim in Indiana and New Jersey, this collection on feminine spirituality is eloquent, elegant and satisfyingly multicultural. Established literary luminaries, like Mary Gordon, are found alongside more obscure but equally skilled writers like Suzanne Edison. As in the editors' previous anthology, The Sweet Breathing of Plants , many of the pieces gathered here connect the natural and spiritual worlds. (This is perhaps best exemplified by the excerpt from Terry Tempest Williams's Refuge , which draws together reflections on Mormonism and the Great Salt Lake, and by the short, astounding "Epiphany," in which the late poet Pem Kremer writes, "she saw You once as prairie grass.... She says when she can't pray/She calls up prairie grass.") The volume also seeks the spiritual in the everyday: Susan Biskeborn grounds her reflections on God in conversations held with her toddler daughter, while Catherine Johnson has an epiphany at a Parisian metro stop. A final section on "Practicing" shows women investigating spiritual disciplines as diverse as Quaker silence and Wiccan craft rituals. The collection is tarnished by the predictable, but nonetheless disappointing, under-representation of women representing more conservative religious communities—evangelical Protestantism, Orthodox Judaism, etc. Even so, readers hungry for feminine spirituality investigated with literary flair will find a feast. (Sept.)