Review of RIVER OF GRACE by Susan Bailey

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I’m happy today to be blogging about my friend Susan Bailey’s book: RIVER OF GRACE, which was sent to me via Net Galley. I know Susan from Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, and we have a lot in common.

Here’s the description of it via Net Galley:

Catholic recording artist and popular blogger Susan Bailey reveals, in this personal and moving narrative, how several major losses helped her rediscover creativity and faith. Filled with powerful insights on the presence and action of grace—in the Mass and sacraments, in nature, and even in grief—River of Grace guides readers to strengthen their faith during tough times and discover their own hidden gifts.

In just a few years’ time, Bailey experienced one challenge after another: the deaths of her father and mother, financial issues, and the loss of her singing voice. Using the rich imagery of a river of grace, Bailey relates how her devotion to the Eucharist inspired her to see Christ’s presence in her life and helped her to trust again.

Each chapter relates Bailey’s experiences of loss and growth and features original activities and personal rituals that include everything from Joni Mitchell music videos and hot baths to imagery and uncooked spaghetti. These inspirational tools guide readers to reflect on their own experiences. Prayers and poetry are found throughout the book and a set of insightful reflection questions are placed at the end of each chapter.

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I really enjoyed this short and very readable book and immediately purchased a copy of it for a friend who had recently had a loss in her life. The image of a river, along with Susan’s inspirational writings about faith and dealing with loss, make this book a unique and meaningful read. I like how she has included short, optional activities at the end of each chapter. Being Catholic, I can identify and relate to Susan’s devotion to the Eucharist and the healing power that God’s grace can bring to us through it in our time of need.

Thank you for my review copy!

About Susan — from her publisher:

Susan Bailey is a blogger, musician, and speaker who frequently contributes to CatholicMom.com and the Association of Catholic Women Bloggers. Her work has also appeared on Catholic.net, and Catholic Online. Bailey blogs at Be As One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion. She also writes a monthly column for The Catholic Free Press called Be As One. Bailey, who works as a marketing/advertising assistant, was a member of the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, where she served as chair and secretary and helped organize the biennial Gather Us In conference. Formerly a professional musician and graphic artist, Bailey released three CDs and worked as a cantor for fifteen years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (US History and music) from Bridgewater State University. She and her husband, Rich, have two grown children and live in North Grafton, Massachusetts.

Review: A Trilogy of Stories by Karen Kingsbury

A while back I received the “Kingsbury Collection” to review through “Blogging for Books” and Waterbrook Multnomah, a Christian publisher. This 700+ page collection has three complete books in it: Where Yesterday Lives, When Joy Came to Stay, and On Every Side.

In Where Yesterday Lives, young professional Ellen Barrett returns home after her father’s sudden death from a heart attack. Ellen’s family (five siblings) has grown apart over the years. Outwardly they are polite and civil, but emotionally they are torn asunder by old rivals and jealousies, along with some painful memories and bitterness. Ellen’s marriage is currently on rocky soil and she returns to her hometown alone to face her family and a barrage of memories, including memories of her younger years with boyfriend Jake Sadler. It isn’t long before a very sad and lonely Ellen is reconnecting with the man she used to love, while trying to deal with her dysfunctional family and distant husband.

I have to say, this is the first of Kingsbury’s works that I’ve read. I was drawn right into this story for various reasons, and was struck by how well Kingsbury captures the agony and inner turmoil that occurs when a parent dies suddenly. The build-up to Ellen contacting her old boyfriend had me wanting to yell: “Danger, Will Robinson!!” at her. At the essence of this story, however, is a message of forgiveness and hope and a reminder of the power of prayer and of faith. I really enjoyed it!

In When Joy Came to Stay reporter Maggie Stovall is on the verge of a breakdown. She has spent years trying to forget and move on from some difficult and painful decisions that she made when younger. However, Maggie’s choice to not be truthful to her husband, or even to herself, about her past leads her to a collapse and time recuperating in a psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, her husband is left to figure out what happened and why and begins to realize that his “perfect” wife may not be the same woman he thinks he knows. Again, a strong message here of forgiveness and self-forgiveness (which is often the toughest to achieve!), with a focus on the importance and power of faith. Just a note – this story had the feel of a Mary Higgins Clark suspense novel at times!

The final story, On Every Side, Jordan Riley is an attorney working to take down a statue of Jesus in a public park (as a violation of the separation of church and state), while new reporter and child advocate Faith Evans (aptly named!) is working to somehow keep the statue up. Jordan has lost his faith due to hardships he suffered as a child, and the statue just happens to be located in his boyhood hometown. Who will win the battle? Kingsbury based this story, in part, on a similar true legal case involving a religious statue in a park.

As I said earlier, this was my first experience reading Ms. Kingsbury’s books and I did enjoy them. Her work has strong Christian themes and her characters (some of them at least) are often struggling to reconnect with their faith. I like how “real” they seem, though, and the problems faced are often the ones we encounter in day-to-day life.

thanks, Blogging for Books, for my review copy!