24/05/2014

Life of the Beloved (by Henri Nouwen)

I have enjoyed many of the thoughtful books by Catholic writer Henri Nouwen, and tend to pick them up second-hand any time I have the chance. When I saw this one, I didn't realise at first that I had previously read it five years ago, in a special combined edition.

'Life of the Beloved' was originally written by Nouwen for a secular Jewish friend of his. He wanted not to 'convert' him, or to explain in detail what the Bible says (his friend, after all, was well steeped in Jewish history and culture) but to help him understand how much God loved him, to begin to sense that he was a beloved child in a broken world.

I found the writing to be powerful and moving. It wasn't that it said anything new, but the way it was said was very thought-provoking and often moving. The author uses as themes for individual chapters the four words: Taken, Blessed, Broken and Given. He examines what these concepts meant to him over the years, and how he had - very slowly - come to accept the love of God no matter what his circumstances.

It's honest and often moving, and in places reads very much like a letter to a friend, although at times I forgot that there was a specific audience. There's a prologue and epilogue which talk more about it, but the bulk of the book - barring a few specific comments about the friendship - are relevant to anyone.

It's quite a short book, only around 120 pages, but there's a lot to digest if taken slowly. I read just a chapter (or less) per day for nearly two weeks and enjoyed it very much.

Highly recommended. Written in 1992 it's still in print on both sides of the Atlantic.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's Book Reviews

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