``Frank and Maisie were . . . kings of the Catholic world from John O'Groats to Borneo . . . certainly in America they loomed enormous,'' writes their son in this arresting re-creation of what it was like to grow up with parents who were, among other things, founders of the ``Tiffany of Catholic publishing,'' Sheed and Ward. Novelist and essayist Wilfrid Sheed describes his childhood in the Catholic literary establishment; we are treated to intimate, candid glimpses of the greats, for example, Ronald Knox, G. K. Chesterton and other classic apologists for the faith who were familiars in the peripatetic Sheeds' households. The marriage of Maisie, of the distinguished English Wards, and Frank, a galvanic Australian, produced not only children and a publishing house but stamped a Catholic intellectual formation that still bears fruit. Sheed's graceful, acerbic tribute to his unique parents is a rueful, loving appreciation of a father who remains ``my editor, even in death'' and of a mother who made ``other people's conventional twentieth-century mothers seem awfully dull by comparison.'' Brimming with anecdotes, songs, hilarity and sadness, the memoir has resonance. BOMC alternate. Foreign rights: ICM/Lynn Nesbit. October 29
Sheed and Ward was the premier Catholic publisher in England and America during the middle decades of this century. Frances (Frank) Sheed and Mary (Maisie) Ward were Sheed and Ward; this unclassifiable bookpart biography, part autobiography, part celebrationis their story. Wilfrid Sheed, novelist and son of Frank and Maisie, grew up among brilliant, charismatic, and often eccentric Catholicshis parents, G.K. Chesterton (his godfather), Hilaire Belloc, Dorothy Day, Robert Lowelland he skillfully captures the flavor and excitement of a social and intellectual world that no longer exists. Whether read as a study of the Catholic revival, as an account of growing up Catholic in England and America, or as the story of a unique couple whose zestful love of life, religion, and each other made a mark on the world, this is a wonderful book. BOMC alternate selection. D. Stephen Rockwood, Mount Saint Mary's Coll., Emmitsburg, Md.