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Posted December 7, 2011
I put off reading this book because I didn't like the cover. Then I opened it, read those first words "In my culture, on Rockbottom Island, everyone knows that women are superior to men," and was hooked.
Amrutha's an intriguing title for a truly intriguing book. The subtitle, What the Pope's man found out about the Law of Nature, is a little odd, but tells me, accurately, there'll be Catholicism and nature here. But there's so very much more; topics as diverse as the ordination of women and the Catholic view of homosexuality; narratives as different as ancient Papal teachings and the stories of Hinduism; cultures from Rome to India to mysterious tropical islands; action scenes that travel from contemplative walks to strangers stranded at sea... all told with the gentle humor, haunting spirituality, and honest curiosity of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. What more could I want?
The story begins with a priest compelled to defend a nun as the Catholic Church contemplates her excommunication. She teaches contraception as protection from AIDS but the Church has determined it goes against "natural law." Monsignor Shamus McKenna's defense leaves him tasked with determining the true nature of women, in order to ensure the proper application of law. His misadventures takes him halfway round the world as he seeks the best subjects to study; and the story, told by someone who calls the Monsignor "my father," leaves the reader constantly guessing where the exploration will end.
To write about Papal encyclicals, the Church's views on nature and nurture, the place of women in society, sex, morality and more, and make it all wholly engaging and entertaining is no small feat. At 531 pages, this is no small book either, but it's highly recommended--a perfect blend of serious thought, gentle humor, curious coincidence and haunting mystery.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Bohlsen PR in exchange for an honest review.