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Issue Date:  November 12, 2004

A season of change

Edited by Gary Schmidt
and Susan M. Felch
Skylight Paths Publishing, 299 pages, $21.95

Autumn is not a steady time of year. It begins in warmth and color, but by the time it’s over, we’re surrounded by bare branches, anticipating the dark of winter.

In Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, editors Gary Schmidt and Susan Felch remind us “that life is uncertain, and that our quest to find the means to live with that knowledge is, at its deepest, a spiritual quest.” Their compilation explores five themes of this hazy season -- change, endings, work, harvest and thanksgiving -- through an eclectic mix of essays, hymns and poetry. Authors include Thoreau, P.D. James, Keats, and Julian of Norwich, whose Showings reflection on a hazelnut appears under “Harvest.” Each section opens with a passage from the Book of Ruth (again, harvest time) and bears a different illustration by artist Mary Azarian.

Most of the writers collected in Autumn are American or English. But perhaps one of the loveliest images comes from the Korean Hahm Dong-seon in his poem “A Rough Sketch of Autumn.” “In my heart,” he writes, “A parched leaf is always sculling past.” This volume is a fitting way to meditate on the close of another year.

By Arno Bohlmeijer
Eerdmans, 164 pages, $15

Five pages into To an Angel Who Is New, the Bohlmeijer family gets into a severe car accident. Young daughters Phoebe and Rosemyn and their father Arno are badly injured, and mother Marian falls into a coma.

From his hospital bed, Arno tells Marian everything. We see their hospital trials, the father’s growing relationship with his daughters and the many friends and relatives who rush to the family’s side. All of them feel Marian’s presence even through her coma and continue to feel it after she dies.

Angel seems at first to be a work of fiction. But Dutch author Arno Bohlmeijer, his daughters and his late wife are real people. As he worked on his story, Mr. Bohlmeijer felt his wife’s presence so strongly that he decided to write to Marian rather than about her.

In Angel, Bohlmeijer set out to show how close heaven can come to earth. The result is a unique, wrenching and beautiful book that defies categorization.

-- Antonia Ryan

National Catholic Reporter, November 12, 2004

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