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Lunch » Tags » Book » Reviews » Salvador Witness: The Life And Calling of Jean Donovan » User review

A gripping and unnerving story of what it means to sacrifice one's self.

  • May 9, 2013
  • by
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For an oral history project, I had the fortunate opportunity to interview a former grassroots committee member who was investigating the goings-on in El Salvador via the political influence of Joseph Moakley; it was through this interview that I first heard of Jean Donovon and the three nuns (Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel) who were murdered by Salvadoran government troops. Though the interview and project that I was working on wasn't specifically directed at the lives of these heroic missionaries, their lives and choices deeply fascinated me, especially the life of Jean Donovan. It really made me stop and pause as to why someone who was on the corporate up-and-up in middle America would want to chuck it all away to work in a hotbed of political strife and terror that was El Salvador, a country in which she had no emotional or physical connection to whatsoever. It is in Ana Carrigan's crisp and terse biography, Salvador Witness: The Life and Calling of Jean Donovan, that her life and choices are expertly and eloquently explored. Using personal letters and interviews by those who knew her best, an overall profile is created of a woman who sensed that she had more to offer than being a corporate executive on the fast track to affluence and living in "lollipop acres." But on a deeper plain, she felt compelled, as Catholics would say, a calling to be a helper, which, in reality, is a universal vocation. But it is illustrated in her Maryknoll Missionary application, where she wrote, "The family experience which has most affected my life was when my brother got Hodgkins disease...at the time, it made me realize how unsure our existence is, and how precious life is to each of us. Many of the valuse people exalt are not so important after all." Page 67. Yet, she concludes her application with a more intimate religious experience as the core cause for her actions, "I have been thinking about this vocation for many years. Actually I think, that for a number of years, Christ has been sending various people into my life, that through their example and actions I saw a calling to missionary work. I have a gut feeling that my main motivation to be a missionary is a true calling from God." Page 67. It was a compulsion that aroused her to action, even onto death, and the various happenings that lead up to that horrific moment make bone-chilling reading but evoke the highest sense of admiration. The book, which is a derivative or offshoot of the award-winning documentary on Jean Donovan-Roses in December-will make readers question their priorities in life, as it should; it will jar the consciousness of what is and isn't acceptable when it comes to human suffering. Though the women who were killed were apolitical at best and were merely trying to live out the Gospel message the way they knew how, their example speaks volumes. Ana Carrigan's Salvador Witness is quite successful as a biography which tries to explore all the human complexities that are attached to a single life. It is almost reminiscent to Thomas Hauser's fantastic nonfiction book, Missing, about the abduction and murder of journalist Charles Horman-an American-during the coup of Marxist president Salvatore Allende.
A gripping and unnerving story of what it means to sacrifice one's self.

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More Salvador Witness: The Life And... reviews
review by . July 01, 2007
For an oral history project, I had the fortunate opportunity to interview a former grassroots committee member who was investigating the goings-on in El Salvador via the political influence of Joseph Moakley; it was through this interview that I first heard of Jean Donovon and the three nuns (Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel) who were murdered by Salvadoran government troops. Though the interview and project that I was working on wasn't specifically directed at the lives of these heroic …
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ISBN-10: 157075604X
ISBN-13: 978-1570756047
Author: Ana Carrigan
Publisher: Orbis Books

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