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Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soulby Tony Hendra
Synopses & Reviews
A key comic writer of the past three decades has created his most heartfelt and hard-hitting book. Father Joe is Tony Hendra's inspiring true story of finding faith, friendship, and family through the decades-long influence of a surpassingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.
Like everything human, it started with sex. In 1955, fourteen-year-old Tony found himself entangled with a married Catholic woman. In Cold War England, where Catholicism was the subject of news stories and Graham Greene bestsellers, Tony was whisked off by the woman's husband to see a priest and be saved.
Yet what he found was a far cry from the priests he'd known at Catholic school, where boys were beaten with belts or set upon by dogs. Instead, he met Father Joe, a gentle, stammering, ungainly Benedictine who never used the words "wrong" or "guilt," who believed that God was in everyone and that "the only sin was selfishness." During the next forty years, as his life and career drastically ebbed and flowed, Tony discovered that his visits to Father Joe remained the one constant in his life — the relationship that, in the most serious sense, saved it.
From the fifties and his adolescent desire to join an abbey himself; to the sixties, when attending Cambridge and seeing the satire of Beyond the Fringe convinced him to change the world with laughter, not prayer; to the seventies and successful stints as an original editor of National Lampoon and a writer of Lemmings, the off-Broadway smash that introduced John Belushi and Chevy Chase; to professional disaster after co-creating the legendary English series Spitting Image; from drinking to drugs, from a failed first marriage to a successful second and the miracle of parenthood — the years only deepened Tony's need for the wisdom of his other and more real father, creating a bond that could not be broken, even by death.
A startling departure for this acclaimed satirist, Father Joe is a sincere account of how Tony Hendra learned to love. It's the story of a whole generation looking for a way back from mockery and irony, looking for its own Father Joe, and a testament to one of the most charismatic mentors in modern literature.
"[An] inspirational saga....The writing is certainly quite smart....Heartfelt tribute to a kind and wise teacher, though the author seems to have kept the best words of wisdom for himself." Kirkus Reviews
"[A] graceful, humorous tale....Hendra writes well...chronicling the failure of his first marriage, his descent into substance abuse, his self-hatred and his incessant search for meaning in compelling prose and with clear-eyed honesty." Publishers Weekly
"Don't expect anything remotely funny from this book. This is a memoir masquerading as a homage to what must have been a truly kind and decent man....It is a book for men who think of themselves as trapped, misunderstood geniuses, so it should sell well." The Washington Post
"Father Joe may be the best, most important nonfiction book I have ever read. This true story is filled with wild escapades, ribald humor, moving religious experiences and profound thoughts on the meaning of life." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Hendra's book is so funny at times that you wonder if you'll ever get through it for laughing....It is splendidly crafted and a welcome reminder that what true religion is about is learning how to love." Philadelphia Inquirer
"[B]elongs in the first tier of spiritual memoirs ever written....
"A worldly-wise and heavenly book....Almost every page of Father Joe delights and surprises." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"The first few chapters are a bit slow going, but by the time readers are introduced to Father Joe, they'll find themselves happily caught in the complex web of humor and spiritual vulnerability Hendra deftly weaves." Chicago Sun-Times
"Tony Hendra has accomplished one hell of a lot in his life, and doubtless has many achievements ahead of him, but this memoir of his spiritual journey, and the monk who guided it, will almost certainly be his masterpiece." Christopher Buckley, author of No Way to Treat a First Lady
"I picked up Father Joe intending to read just a couple of pages before bed — and found that I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. The nature of a wise man, and the true nature of what wisdom feels like in action, is beautifully captured in Tony Hendra's portrait of Father Joe, who is one of the few convincing saints in recent writing. The book's last episode, when Hendra brings his son to meet Father Joe, brought unexpected tears to my weary eyes." Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon
"When I read passages to my wife and my voice began to give way she said, Keep going, keep going. I really didn't need much urging. I could easily have read the whole book in one sitting but it's too rich, too powerful, overwhelming....Like me you might cherish this book so much you'll keep it on the shelf beside St. Augustine, St. Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and when you dip into it you might hear Gregorian chant from the monks of Quarr." Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes
A key comic writer of the past three decades has created his most heartfelt and hard-hitting book. Hendra shares his inspiring true story of finding faith, friendship, and family through the decades-long influence of a surpassingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.
About the Author
Tony Hendra attended Cambridge University, where he performed frequently with friends and future Monty Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman. He is the author of Going Too Far, a classic history of modern American satire. He was editor in chief of Spy magazine, an original editor of the National Lampoon, and he played Ian Faith in the movie This Is Spinal Tap. He has written frequently for New York, Harper's, GQ, Vanity Fair, Men's Journal, and Esquire, among other magazines. He is married to Carla Hendra; they have three young children, Lucy, Sebastian, and Nicholas.
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