by Kathleen Norris
From the back cover
When, more than twenty years ago, Kathleen Norris began attending her grandmother's small-town church on the Great Plains, she was a transplanted poet with more doubt than faith. Still, the strong pulls of tradition, family, history, and community compelled her to return week after week to Sunday morning services, and her deepening ties to a nearby monastery awoke in her a desire to believe.
Blending history, theology, story, etymology, and memoir, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith is a poet's journey through language to faith, with each word serving as the occasion for an examination of a particular aspect of the Christian lexicon. It is the story of one woman's gradual conversion, but it is also an investigation into how we can embrace beliefs that have been passed down to us.
While it's not quite up to par with The Cloister Walk, I still very much enjoyed reading Amazing Grace. At first, I was frustrated with the lack of definitions in this book. It is, for the most part, assumed that the reader already has a basic understanding of what each word means, as in true poet form, Norris often comprised a chapter wholly of what came to mind in reaction to the word she was reflecting on.
But once I realized that Amazing Grace is just that, a compilation of reactions to words, and not a glorified dictionary, I was better able to settle in and enjoy Norris' unique and engaging writing style. Sometimes she did throw in a definition where she deemed necessary, and other times I could work it out myself by the end of the chapter. Sometimes I still had no idea, but extracted a lesson from the pages anyway.
This is a book to savor out on the back porch with a glass of sweet tea in the warm summer months (although I suppose hot tea and a cozy chair will do in the winter!).