Some years ago I hear an interview on Al Kresta’s show with Sally Read. She is a a British poet and former psychiatric nurse. The interview involved her conversion to the Catholic faith from then a lifetime as an atheist. Very insightful interview.
So I was interested to find that she has now written her conversion story for Ignatius Press. The book is Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story.
Conversion stories of all types interest me. As a former atheist I especially enjoy conversion stories from other former atheists. After reading this one I realized that the recent books I read about atheists becoming Catholics were all women.
- Leah Libresco Arriving at Amen: Seven Catholic Prayers That Even I Can Offer
- Jennifer Fulwiler Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It
I had recently read Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ which is excellent, but he didn’t become Catholic.
Still an interesting thread in the stories of these women and a couple of similar examples I know of was that these were not women who rebelled against how they were raised. As I remember they grew up in households with no faith, as I did. All firm in their atheism with the Catholic Church, if it was even on their radar at all, was a marked enemy. So I find these commonalities fascinating along with just how different their stories are. Each book I referenced was a journey where they didn’t want to go filled with their own personalities and interests. These stories also tend not to read like an apologetics work common with Protestants who became Catholics. There are different concerns involved.
So I expected Sally Read’s account to have a literary tone to it as I imagined a poet’s account would be. I was not expecting it to feel so much a meditation. The story itself seems so unlikely. A staunch atheist with a view of life common to modern feminism. Yet at times she has glimpses into her situation that she can’t account for from her viewpoint. A realization that something was missing which could not be accounted for.
The journey of her conversion is very frank and striking. What gets her talking to a priest is not exactly a common point in a story of conversion. Yet like all conversion stories there is a confluence of different threads moving together.
Really I am failing spectacularly at writing this review because I don’t have the skill to write the review it deserves. I was totally enthralled in her story and how she weaved in these parts of her life and the influence on her thinking. Not a straight forward sequential biography of going from point A to B. A narrative with themes that presents her story. That she did some of this merging St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul” was very effective. It all moved me greatly.
The story of the priest she came to know and argued back and forth with was integral to this story. So glad that this priest showed such perseverance in this. The same goes with her relationship with one Catholic mother that was tumultuous.
I just totally loved this book. So much so that it is one I will probably read is again. So insightful and written so wonderfully. Striking in the absurdity of the story and the movement of grace.