Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
Mary Swander loved her solitary life on the Iowa prairie. But when a car accident leaves her partially paralyzed, her chronic pain unresponsive to medication, she is virtually helpless and must depend on the care of a team of friends to help her through the frozen winter. Offered a position to teach at the University of New Mexico, she grabs it, hopeful that the warmer, drier climate may do her some good.
Ensconced in Albuquerque, Swander, a lapsed Catholic, tentatively begins to reconnect with her lost faith through talks with a Russian Orthodox monk. Father Sergei's church is a small oasis of peace and beauty on a stretch of Route 66 that harbors crack dealers, gangs, and the homeless. Swander also seeks out alternative methods of treatment, enlisting the support of Lu, an herbal healer who refuses payment.
The combination of Lu's herbs and Father Sergei's chats begins to have a miraculous effect, not only strengthening Swander physically but reawakening her spirit as well. As Lu reminds her, "Faith doesn't mean that everything will always be good in life. That's luck. Faith means you'll always be connected wherever life takes you."
With this poetic look at pain, acceptance, faith, and the unknown, Mary Swander has given readers a real gift.
(Fall 2003 Selection)
This nonfiction memoir of a chronically ill poet who rediscovers her Catholic faith and perceives its healing power reads like a cross between Kathleen Norris and Carlos Castaneda. Swander, an Iowa poet who developed a paralyzing neurological condition when her car was hit by a drunk driver, weaves family history and an introduction to historic Catholic mystics into a tale of her recovery from illness when she journeys from snowbound Iowa to the desert of New Mexico as a visiting professor. She meets two "everyday mystics"-a Russian Orthodox priest named Father Sergei, whose theology has a discernible Buddhist accent, and a Hispanic herbal healer named Lu. Both tend to her body and soul as they help her to recover. The author writes movingly and keenly about the death of her mother from cancer, and her details of landscape and situation are lively in their particularity: a yapping pack of Chihuahuas, the lusty zucchini growing in Father Sergei's garden. Swander's language of faith is more hesitant as she searches for its embodiment in her lived experience. The timeless Christian allegory of pilgrimage to belief is freshly rendered. This poet-pilgrim joins a literary tradition of others before her who journeyed through the dark nights of doubt to the convinced light of faith. This is a beautifully written book. (Aug. 25) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
The "healing" in Swander's previous memoir, Out of This World: A Journey of Healing, concerned her severe allergies and eventual reconnection to nature through organic gardening and living alongside Amish neighbors. In this new work, Swander recounts her recovery from a spinal injury and reconnection to faith and spirituality. A car accident began the sequence of events that left her in chronic pain from transverse myelitis. With her doctors providing little relief or hope, she accepted a visiting faculty position in New Mexico, where encounters with a Russian Orthodox monk and a local curandera opened her to new ways of seeing herself and her injuries. Swander evocatively intertwines her emotional and physical healings, honestly portraying both her hesitancies and her wonder. Her writing is strongest when she is dealing with the natural environment. The narrative flags somewhat in her accounts of Christian mystics but is balanced by her ability to convey the essences of her two contemporary spiritual guides. Recommended for collections where spiritual autobiographies are popular.-Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.