Date Published: October 7, 2012
Number of Pages: 270
Print Price: $14.53
eBook Price: $3.99
It is a rare book that can follow the love story of a couple from the moment they meet to their wedding day, and during that journey illuminate with crystal clarity the very nature of the beauty of marriage. AnnMarie Creedon succeeds in this attempt. In her book Angela’s Song, she demonstrates the importance of prayer in daily family life, patience with God’s plan, the mutual respect of a man and a woman through courtship, and the power of relinquishing their cares and worries to God in times of trial, trusting His guidance will lead to the right path. In short, Angela’s Song presents us nothing less than Christ’s example, through a tale of love and marital devotion.
Angela’s Song tells the story of Angela (“Jel”) Cooke, a widow and mother of three, who takes us on a journey of familial reconciliation, self-reflection and romance. When we first meet Jel, she has awakened from a nightmare, still reeling from the death of her husband. Yet, when we are tempted to feel pity for her, she quickly pulls us into her life story, changing our pity to admiration.
Between the hustle and bustle of being a single mother of three, her older boys, Sam and Ben, and a young daughter named Rosie, and her commitments to her parish – where she volunteers with the youth group, as treasurer of the women’s auxiliary, and as co-founder of the local Elizabeth Ministry chapter. In this last role, she aids women who’ve had miscarriages or lost children and cares for special needs children. Through her involvement with all these works of mercy, we are quickly in love with this character as a model of moral fortitude.
However, as most of us do, Jel has filled her life with time-consuming activities for a reason, in part to ease the pain of the loss of her husband, Devin, but also as a distraction from dealing with unresolved issues in her marriage to Devin. Her good friends Jim (a widower with whom Jel volunteers at youth group), Father Sean (Jel’s parish priest, whose guidance Jel values greatly), and especially Marissa (her best friend and greatest support as she dealt with the loss of Devin) all have different perspectives as to how Jel should move on, but all are born out of love for Jel and faith in Christ.
Jel describes in amazement how Father Sean recommends her to take over as leader of the Youth Group from Jim, who will soon seek entry into the diaconate. She surprises herself by agreeing to this, even though it will require her to attend classes at the diocesan Lay Formation Institute to allow her to teach for her diocese.
Jel soon finds herself carpooling with Jim to classes, learning more about herself and Jim during this time, and meets Jack, the teacher of her Theology of the Body class, for whom she experiences a great physical and spiritual attraction that surprises her. Recognizing the connection, Jim is the first to gently push the two together, seeing an opportunity for Jel to move on with her life and perhaps find another chance at grace through this potential relationship.
From here, Jel takes us on an emotional roller-coaster ride, moving between her deep desire for love in her life and her inability to move on from her less-than-perfect marriage. She moves us in her struggle to seek guidance, through her faith in God, with the decision she must eventually make: should she accept the sacrament of marriage again, and will this step be the right one for her, her three children and true to the path God has chosen for her?
I can’t speak highly enough of this novel. From the first page, Creedon captivated me, demonstrating her great ability as a writer to make you laugh and cry within the space of a paragraph. As a Catholic father, well-acquainted with parish life and Catholic school responsibilities, I immediately bonded with Jel. I cannot imagine the responsibility of such a weight suddenly being borne upon the shoulders of my own wife if (God forbid) I passed away.
I see my own kids in hers and appreciated the story’s little details, such as that her son is named “Samwise” (a character in J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings ), or how she pulls herself from bed, gets the kids ready for school and meets with Father Sean about her volunteer duties, all before getting the shopping done and heading home. Before the end of Chapter 1 is , I love this character and I feel for her loss. I am exhausted, yet admire her strength and the strength of her kids, who appear to be there for her, not making the pain worse or the burden heavier.
A quality that I greatly appreciate about Jel is her devotion to the faith, her constant prayer of thanks to God for the good things in her life. Her devotion to the Church, its teachings and her friendship with Father Sean – who guides her in sacramental life, orienting her volunteer work and giving lessons about Natural Family Planning (NFP) – are all wonderful things. Though a widow, she shows us through her story that she has the support of a whole community behind her, through her parish, her friends and family.
But, as with all of us, there is room for improvement, and the relationship she develops with Jack begins to bring to the surface details of how her life has been almost on hold since the death of her husband. We learn how Jim’s own loss of his wife helped him grow closer to the Church and how, in turn, that strength aided him in easing Jel’s pain during her loss, from helping with the technical details of paperwork, to being there as a friend. Jim lives his faith, and his friendship with Jel personifies this as Jim recognizes these areas of improvement and perhaps sees Jack as a step in the right direction, though he is not as vocal as Jel’s best friend, Marissa.
In Jel’s relationship with Marissa, we see just how important God is to Jel and how devoted she is as a friend. Sadly, we learn that Marissa has had several miscarriages, yet in her resolve she and her husband John still find strength through prayer and friendship with people like Jel to continue cherishing life and the hope of life, in their relationship as husband and wife. Through her friendship with Marissa, a pious and hopeful woman and wife, whose ardent desire is to see Jel happy by making necessary changes and moving on, Jel begins to let Jack into her life as more than a friend and begins to see God’s plan for her.
She finds herself looking closer at her physical appearance, realizing that she has let herself lose appreciation for herself through her grief. Inspired in part by her feelings for Jack, and through the teachings of her Theology of the Body class, she admits to Melissa that she has begun to analyze her prior marriage more, realizing it hadn’t been as good as it could have been, lacking both intimacy and spirituality; her new feelings are confusing, but we see in Melissa a great friend who, when Jel asks her for advice, responds to her: “As soon as I open my eyes I pray and I keep going back to Him throughout the day, so that He’s my focus. Then everything else seems to fall into place.” Jel proceeds to move through a great period of doubt during which Jack, painfully at times, patiently awaits her discernment to end.
Angela’s Song demonstrates to us, through Jel’s journey of learning more about herself and her faith, the importance of never growing complacent in our Church life. There is always more to learn, more to teach, and more to grow with in our family life as we grow as part of the Body of the Church. Perhaps this is most evident in Jack’s devotion to the ideals of proper courtship, chastity before marriage and the sacrament of marriage itself; also touching and inspiring is Jel’s moment of forgiveness when she must confront the man responsible for the death of her husband.
Through her very relationship with Jack, Jel finds change around every corner, and ultimately deals with the pain of losing her father at an early age and the sadness of the great divide that grew between her and her older brothers. Yet, as is often the case when God guides our hearts, all around her others find themselves positively transformed along the way, too. What more can we ask of a novel than such wonderful examples of faith in practice and of transformative love?
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 0.6 x 4.9 x 7.9 inches
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