Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Mini-reviews: Not My Father's Son and Love: The Saint and the Seeker

             Not My Father's Son   Love: The Saint and the Seeker

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming
It Books October 2014, 288 pages, from the library

Alan Cumming is an actor known for his work on the Broadway stage and on numerous television shows. When he was approached by a genealogy show, he thought it might answer his family's questions about the fate of his maternal grandfather. Instead, after many years of estrangement, Alan's father called him and gave him earth-shattering news. Not My Father's Son relates his struggle to find peace with an abusive childhood and the man who caused his pain.

Cumming is exceptionally brave to share what are obviously very painful memories. His father was verbally and physically abusive to his sons during their childhood. Throughout this book (and I would imagine in real life as well), Cumming is endlessly gracious to those in his life and manages to find great stores of kindness and forgiveness to those who have done him wrong. That being said, I had difficulty really getting into this story. The narrative jumps between past and present, often without apparent connection. In spite of my difficulties, I think Mr. Cumming is a brave soul and I hope that his work here will give others the courage to speak up about and fight against the kind of abuse that he suffered.

Love: The Saint and the Seeker by Christina Stevens
Hay House September 2014, 352 pages, read via Netgalley

Christina Stevens is a movie producer who has a vision where Mother Theresa encourages her to come and make a movie. In spite of the fact that the nun was refusing to give interviews on screen, Christina set up a film crew and left for Calcutta. She hoped to share Mother Theresa's wisdom and love with the world. But she never suspected how radically her experiences would change her life.

I found this book very disappointing. I was fairly young when Mother Theresa died, but I have always been fascinated by her life and by her work. Through reading this story, I hoped to learn more about her from someone who actually had the chance to meet her. But in spite of the premise, very little time is actually spent with the saint. Instead, we read a great deal about Christina's life, her childhood, and her own spiritual journey. The author takes Mother Theresa's words and uses them to downplay her devotion to and love for the Catholic Church, which I found very frustrating and perhaps disrespectful. If you are looking for a book that will give you new insight into Mother Theresa, this probably isn't the book for you.


  1. I've been doing mini-reviews, too. They're so much less daunting, and then I end up writing almost as much as I would in a "real" review.

    I've had my eye on the Alan Cumming book. He's an actor for whom I have a great deal of respect, so I have higher hopes for this one vs the slew of other celebrity memoirs out there. Sorry to hear that it didn't grab you as much as you were hoping it would!

    1. I feel like calling it a mini-review gives you permission to write as much as you can. Then if you end up writing a long review, it's just a bonus!

      I think we tend to assume that people we like will write books that we will like. But that's just not always the case!

  2. I've hear others enjoyed this Cummings book, but memoir enjoyment is very subjective, in my opinion, even more so than with fiction.
    I wish that the Mother Teresa story was more upbeat and spiritually enjoyable. Shame on the author for turning it all about her while claiming to be about a famous saint.

    1. I got very frustrated with the Mother Theresa book. It just seemed like so much dishonest marketing. I'm not sure people would have really picked up a book about Steven's spiritual journey but making it look like a book about Mother Theresa just made me grumpy.

  3. The Alan Cumming memoir is on my list, and despite its flaws, it does sound compelling.

    I don't know much about Mother Theresa, but she is surely one of the most fascinating people of our time. Downplaying her dedication to the Catholic Church? That does seem extremely odd. I=And it does sound like the book was more about the author. As you said, it's deceptive marketing.

    1. It was very frustrating on so many levels! I guess I will have to be on the lookout for some Mother Theresa books now...