by Colleen Carroll Campbell
I’ve finished book number 78 for 2012, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir by Colleen Carroll Campbell.
This book is Campbell’s memoir of her spiritual journey and about the six women saints who have become her patronesses and closest friends. She intertwines the stories of these women saints with her own story, telling the reader how they have given her hope, guidance, and strength on her own spiritual journey.
To begin, I have to say that I think this book hit me personally very strongly, as some of her own struggles are struggles that I share—particularly a father with Alzheimers. Because of this connection, I found myself reading Campbell’s memoirs with a box of tissues sitting next to me, taking short breaks when my eyes were so filled with tears that I couldn’t see the page. For me, hearing how she found comfort in Therese of Lisieux’s similar experiences of a father with dimensia were personally helpful and I will take her thoughts and shared experiences to prayer.
I also related to much of what Campbell writes in a professional way. Her memories of college life correspond well with my experiences as a college campus minister. She writes that for her it seemed “better to be labeled shallow, stuck-up, drunk, or debauched—anything but devout” (page 22). If you have encountered this and struggled with it or been mystified by it, then I think this book is for you.
At the very beginning of the text, Campbell sets the stage by telling about an experience she had in college where she looked around her and asked the same question I see many of my students asking themselves, “Is this it? Is this all there is?” She walked away in hopes of finding a satisfactory answer. I think that this book is an answer and it is one that can help readers move forward in their own spiritual lives. I think that readers who have had similar experiences to her, whether it is an exact experience, such as a father who struggles with Alzheimer’s, or simply the wider experience of trying to determine what it means to be free in a world bound by the chains of sin or to be feminine in a society that seems to stand against femininity (both themes continued throughout the book), will find in Campbell’s memoirs a story of hope and also an idea for how to move forward in their own lives.
As a spiritual memoir, Campbell’s writing is insightful and prayerful, a good book to read when you are in your own moment of questioning. As a book, Campbell’s writing is clear and alive. She truly captures the reader, inviting them to walk with her as she tells her story and also those of the women saints—Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Faustina, Edith Stein, Mother Teresa, and Mary, Mother of God. The parallels that she draws between her own life and those of the saints are insightful. The lessons she learns are encouraging. And throughout she brings to life for the reader the many characters of her tale—her mother and father, husband, and friends—in such a way that the reader is bound to love them as she does.
I highly recommend this book.
For more information on Colleen and her writing, visit her website: http://colleen-campbell.com/
The first chapter of the book can be found at Amazon.com.
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for this honest review as part of their Blogging for Books program.