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Darcey SteinkeThese days, we seem to have two kinds of religious books. Those like The Purpose-Driven Life,…insipidly set out conservative precepts, encouraging us to join churches, obey their doctrines and center our spiritual lives around them, no matter how limiting those lives might be in that context alone. At the other end of the spectrum are gleeful repudiations of religion like Christopher Hitchens's atheist manifesto, God Is Not Great. But Hitchens's definition of religion is childlike and reductive; he completely discounts the longing many of us feel for divinity. What's inspiring about Circling My Mother is Gordon's deeply personal portrayal of her mother. Anna Gagliano is not someone who feels she must have large ideas about what's wrong with Catholicism. Instead, like those famous midcentury Catholics, Gordon's mother attends to the nourishment of her own particular religious vocation, a vocation less glamorous than Merton's and Day's but no less divine—a vocation as a single mother, as one afflicted by polio, as a woman in full belief of the love of God.
—The New York Times