Book Review: Heaven Shining Through

39704566Heaven Shining Through is a short, novella-length book written by Joe Siccardi. It tells the story of Samantha’s life in the context of a journey home to visit with her mother, with whom she has always had a rocky relationship. It is fundamentally a Christian story — it is a story of Samantha and her faith journey throughout her life and, ultimately, her ability to see “heaven shining through.”

It’s a quick read but a powerful Christian witness to dealing with life, love, loss, and forgiveness. I liked how the author was able to integrate so many elements of real life – difficult family dynamics, the waning and then revival of faith, coping with tragic loss – into a story that makes life seem blessed despite (or maybe even because of!) the difficulties encountered throughout.

There was one little aspect that I didn’t love: I sensed a little anti-Catholic sentiment in Samantha’s journey. She is raised Catholic but joins a different church when she returns to faith as an adult, where she finds the community she’s been seeking. I’ll be the first to say that Catholic churches are typically not warm and fuzzy kinds of places, and I think, unfortunately, that Samantha’s experience is reflective of what so many fallen-away Catholics have experienced. It only made me a little sad because I felt, as a Catholic, that it missed the beauty of the Catholic faith. (I know – this sounds crazy to a lot of readers given what we are all bombarded with in the news right now re: the Catholic Church. Believe me – I’m struggling with it. But the presence of Evil does not negate the presence of Christ, and that’s what I’m holding on to.)

The book, as a Christian witness, serves its purpose well! As a stand-alone book I would’ve liked to see more – due to it’s short format, there’s a lot that feels glossed over; I think the book has the potential to be a full-length novel and engage the reader on a deeper level. Some of the most beautiful writing in the book is actually in the dedication, where we see Siccardi’s love for his late wife shine. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to read this book (thank you, Joe, for contacting me and offering a review copy!), and I wish Joe all the best in his ministry.

3 stars!

Book Review: Letting Go and Letting God by Kathleen Atkinson, OSB


Letting Go and Letting God: 21 Centuries of Faith by Kathleen Atkinson, OSB

I received this book as a gift several years ago but hadn’t gotten to it until recently. I am currently working as Parish Secretary at my church, and occasionally I have some time at work that I can use for spiritual reading; this was the first book I chose. It was honestly not what I expected from the title, though the cover should’ve been a clue! I was expecting a book about how to let go of your day-to-day anxieties and focus on letting God guide you, and there certainly is an element of that. However, what Atkinson does is choose one saint from each century from the beginning of Christianity through the present and chronicle his or her life, offer suggestions for connecting with said saint, a prayer, and a few questions for reflection.

Overall, I learned a bit about some saints I hadn’t encountered previously and some more about some holy men and women with which I was already familiar. I am a bit skeptical about some of her choices for inclusion (one of which was named a saint by the anti-Pope at one period of Church history and is no longer considered a saint…questionable choice?), but overall she aims to present the saints in such a way that the reader can grasp how that person let go and let God work in his or her life. She summarizes this in her final chapter, which is, I think, the best writing of the book and serves to really tie the whole thing together.

I tend with books like this to skim the reflection questions and prayers, probably to my detriment, and I did so for most of this book. However, I had the opportunity to finish reading it during my hour of the parish’s 40 Hours Devotion (40 hours of Eucharistic Adoration leading up to the Feast of Corpus Christi) and I found praying the short prayers in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament to be quite powerful. Something for me to keep in mind in the future!

So, would I recommend it? Sort of. I definitely learned, but it wasn’t amazing. 3 stars!