Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Saint Kateri: Lily of the Mohawks (Book Review)

I recently had the opportunity to review a new book from the Catholic Company and wanted to share my thoughts with you!

What it is:
Saint Kateri: Lily of the Mowhawks is a biography of St. Kateri Tekawitha, a Native American who was canonized as a Saint in the fall of 2012.
Who wrote it:
Margaret Bunson, a prolific writer of religious history texts who passed away last spring before completing the book, and her son, Matthew Bunson , a professor and theologian with over 30 books under his belt. Published by Our Sunday Visitor, one of the mostly highly regarded Catholic publishers in the US.

Overall Impressions:
I thought in all this book was pretty interesting. I loved reading about Kateri's peaceful spirit and faith, and I especially loved that they used so many direct quotations from the French priests who knew her personally. I would've actually even loved for them to use those sources more! Things about Kateri, like that "It was only a matter of a few weeks until she stood out among all the other women and girls of the mission...in a short time, a saint among the just and faithful." (pg 151), but also interesting information about the mission and the times, like that the mission had 3 bells and would soon be getting a 4th. (pg. 142)
I also really appreciated the historical context the authors included (PS: How cute is it that mother and son worked on it together? ) Although I know about Native Americans in general, I was a little rusty on things like whether the Algonquins and Iroquois liked each other or not, and who was on the French side of the French & Indian Wars, etc. Without turning into a mind-numbing history textbook, they caught me back up to speed so I could understand the world Kateri lived in.
One thing I definitely noticed was that the book was written for adults. It was written at a fairly high level in terms of detail and vocabulary choice, but more importantly, included references to some incidents that might be difficult or uncomfortable to explain to a child. One of those incidents was a time that a man who lived at the Sault mission with his wife somehow drunkenly found his way to Kateri's tent instead of his own in the middle of the night while they were out hunting. Another is that one of Kateri's best friends had previously been stuck in the wilderness with a group of Indians who turned to cannibalism to survive (her friend didn't resort to cannibalism herself, but feared she'd be eaten before they made it to safety!) and her traumatic experience is discussed for quite a while. I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone younger than high school because of those incidents.

  • Detailed
  • Well-written
  • Good use of primary sources

  • A few parts inappropriate for kids, like mention of someone else's drunken husband being found in her tent, and the tale of her friend who narrowly escaped cannibalism.

The bottom line:
Saint Kateri: Lily of the Mowhawks is a good book for adults interested in reading about St. Kateri.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Saint Kateri: Lily of the Mohawks. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith. 

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