Redeemed: A Spiritual Misfit Stumbles Toward God, Marginal Sanity, and the Peace that Passes All Understanding

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An NPR commentator's story of an unlikely epiphany and the healing power of faith

After years of sleeping around, working as a waitress, and suffering booze- induced blackouts, Heather King settled into sobriety, marriage, and a financially lucrative but unfulfilling career in a Beverly Hills law firm. As someone who had reached middle age “never believing in much of anything,” she found herself in the last place she thought she'd end up: the ...

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Hardcover New With a keen balance of absurdity, honesty, and joy Heather King recounts her discoveries of everyday life: work, sex, prayer, family, money, mortality, along with ... alcoholism, abortion, divorce, and numerous other private hells. In addition, her discovery of Christ as not a pious image, but a pulsing heart. A warm body. Blood makes Redeemed one of the most unapologetic discoveries of the Catholic Church in print. Her frankness and humor strike a nerve and leave the reader laughing but raw, with Joy [that] has pain in the middle of it. From her sadistically comic portrayal of the L.A. law firm where she practiced, to her aching account of herself and her seven grown siblings drawn home for their father's final vigil, tenderly waiting while his lungs failed, his legs visibly decayed, and friends said goodbye, tough men collapsing in tears. Reading her story, you want to know her, you want to sit back with a cup of coffee and engage this vibrant, outrageous, joyful woman. The poignancy with wh Read more Show Less

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Overview

An NPR commentator's story of an unlikely epiphany and the healing power of faith

After years of sleeping around, working as a waitress, and suffering booze- induced blackouts, Heather King settled into sobriety, marriage, and a financially lucrative but unfulfilling career in a Beverly Hills law firm. As someone who had reached middle age “never believing in much of anything,” she found herself in the last place she thought she'd end up: the Catholic church.

Redeemed describes the steps of King's journey—from finding herself holed up on the couch reading Hermits of the World (and then wondering why she and her husband weren't having sex) to dealing with the breast cancer that brought her face-to-face with the Virgin Mary. With the death of her father and the devastation of divorce, she connects with Jesus Christ: “A guy who hung out with lepers, paralytics, the possessed: this is someone I can trust.”

This is a profound, fervent, darkly funny tale of an ongoing conversion by a Catholic who, however devout, is about as far from saintlike as can be imagined. Fans of Lauren Winners's Girl Meets God and Anne Lamott's writings will be drawn to King's refreshing sense of humor, mesmerizing voice, and piercing honesty.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In her previous memoir, Parched, King wrote about two decades of "squandering my talents, sleeping around, smoking cigarettes, and swilling Sea Breezes at 8 a.m. in Sullivan's Tap," saving her conversion to Catholicism for the epilogue. Here she looks at what she considers the more interesting part of her story ("nothing is more boring than degradation")-her everyday life without alcohol, with God and yet still full of struggle and pain. "Sometimes I think anyone as drawn as I am to suffering would have had to become a Catholic," she writes. The book starts off as straight memoir: sobriety, frustration, attraction, conversion. In the fifth chapter, however, she shifts to topical essays with a pronounced theological bent. King, familiar to many from her commentaries on NPR's All Things Considered, maintains her signature self-deprecatory humor throughout, at the same time offering readers plenty to chew on as she reflects on her father's death, her bout with breast cancer, the end of her marriage, the importance of humility and the inevitability of loneliness. Though suffering is a constant theme, King's faith sees beyond the pain: "heaven is not some other world, but shot all through the broken world where we already live." (Feb. 18)

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Kirkus Reviews
Wry, self-deprecating memoirist King (Parched, 2005) explores her conversion to Catholicism. The author should have had everything she could want. After 20 years on the bottle, she was finally sober, with "a tremendous sense of having been delivered from the brink." She'd found a decent man, though her marriage felt stale. She was a newly minted lawyer-too bad she hated her dead-end job. In short, she was primed for a spiritual experience. One day she attended mass at a nearby Catholic church. To her surprise, she found that at St. Basil's she "felt Christ in the core of my being." Jesus did not want people to suffer more, she discovered; rather, he acknowledged the profound suffering in every human life. King ultimately joined the church-and started sleeping with a glow-in-the-dark rosary-but she didn't become perfect. Indeed, she spends a lot of time airing her faults: her tendency to hoard money, her less-than-perfect relationship with her sister, her petty resentment of her husband's devotion to Buddhist meditation, her boundless need for affirmation. Her book also has some faults, in particular a chapter about the Church's views on gender roles and premarital sex that belongs in another, less personal text. Overall, however, this is funny, sharp stuff laced with real insight, such as King's insistence that when tragedies like Katrina occur, most of the time the right question is "not where was God, but where was I?" Her journey to Catholicism was accompanied by another journey-she quit her law firm and began to write. So this is really the story of two callings-to faith, and to a life's work-and most writers will relate to King's delightfully over-the-top discussions of her chosenprofession's terrors. A riveting, warts-and-all depiction of a lost soul found. Agent: Laurie Liss/Sterling Lord Literistic Inc.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670018635
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/29/2000
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.78 (w) x 8.44 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

A lawyer turned writer, Heather King is a commentator for NPR's All Things Considered and a communicant at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Los Angeles. She is the author of the memoir Parched. Her work has appeared in the Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies.

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