Synopses & Reviews
"At the outset of this quiet, quirky book, O'Reilley (The Barn at the End of the World) declares that she has written neither a memoir nor a collection of essays: rather, she has collected ephemera. In vignettes that recall Barbara Holland's work, O'Reilley discusses the meaning of vocation her job as a college English professor, she says, would not begin to capture her passion for pottery or her call to the ministry of spiritual direction. Her mother, recently dead, casts a long shadow; some of O'Reilley's strongest prose is about grief. She also pays good attention to nature and animals: dogs, goldfinches, elk and deer meander through her reflections. And this is a deeply spiritual book. O'Reilley equivocates about her belief in God, but she wakes up every morning praying and practices walking meditation. She lambastes the kind of Christians who have tamed and domesticated Jesus. The genre of occasional prose invites annoying, if forgivable, repetition too many uses of the same Sufi phrase 'The soul flies in circles,' for instance. A Catholic turned Quaker, O'Reilley rebels against tidy religious language. 'I want every spiritual word to be new, minted that second. Or else I want silence.' Her language is not grandly new every second, but it certainly is lovely." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
At midlife, Mary Rose O'Reilley reflects on her past and her hard-won sense of self. She is determined, now, not to sacrifice or waste her self. She has struggled for years along the paths set by her suburban childhood, her Catholic upbringing, her failed marriage, and the mute duties of daughterhood. Now, she is trying to see the world through the eyes of the deer that stop outside her window and look in at her. As a wildlife rehabilitator, she feels a closer connection to the natural world as experienced by animals. As an apprentice potter, she sees in a Japanese tea bowl the ultimate balance of action and contemplation. As a Quaker, she can both sit still and sing. And as a writer, O'Reilley can speak clearly to readers at midlife who are expected to know it all, but don't.