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Patrick Henry was a professor of religion, specializing in early Christianity, at Swarthmore College for seventeen years. He is now executive director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at Saint John's Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minnesota. He is the author of The Ironic Christian's Companion: Finding the Marks of God's Grace in the World, Benedict's Dharma and co-author with Donald Swearer, of For the Sake of the World: The Spirit of Buddhist and Christian Monasticism.
Henry, executive director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John's Abbey and University in Minnesota, writes in a breezy, conversational style that is likely to have considerable popular appeal. He describes his book as a "field guide," an allusion that should tip readers both to its exploratory tone and to its inherent invitation to exploration. Those who can comfortably meander among ambiguity, puzzlement and questions posed with varying degrees of clarity will find the approach congenial. As the title implies, "irony" is the guiding metaphor, both influencing and influenced by Henry's "conversation partners," ranging from Edwin Abbott (author of the science fiction classic Flatland), Lewis Carroll, Erasmus, Keats, and Milan Kundera to Mark Vonnegut, who was a student of Henry's. The range is dazzling. The experience of reading this book is something like sitting at the kitchen table with a garrulous uncle: connections and significance aren't always clear, but many of the stories are entertaining. And the sitting is therapeuticÄfor Uncle Patrick as well as his audience. Particularly in recurring references to the suicide of Henry's father, there is a sense of working through a constant experience of loss and ambiguity: "All that is solid melts into air." For the author, this calls not for despair but for exploration motivated by wonder. Henry identifies sources as "conversation partners," and he includes an "index" for pointers to God presented in the order in which they appear in the book. Those who require "neat, brief" answers rather than fieldwork are well advised to stay at home and heed Henry's warning that "this book is not for you." (Mar.)
"As in The Canterbury Tales, the reader will meet an uncommon mix of seekers....The blend of the spiritual with the rational will delight many readers, some of whom may meet a God full of surprises." --Library Journal "I'm happy to report that I've found the third in a series of recently published books that takes up the study of God and his grace and does it in a readable and inspiring fashion. (The other two are Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris and Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott.)" --Jon Hassler, The Minneapolis Pioneer Press
This is not a book for those who like black-and-white explanations. Henry, director of the Institute of Ecumenical and Cultural Research at St. John's University, MN, offers shared wisdom and teasers of the imagination for believers and skeptics attempting to live in a reasonably sane world. Two divorces and a father's suicide have left Henry wary of neat, pat answers. As in The Canterbury Tales, the reader will meet an uncommon mix of seekers, along with their suggestions, comparisons, and characterizations, each adding to the journey. The blend of the spiritual with the rational will delight many readers, some of whom may meet a God full of surprises‘Henry tells it as he experiences and sees it. Recommended for all libraries.‘Leroy Hommerding, Citrus Cty. Lib. System, Inverness, FL