A woman sits in prayerful meditation, waiting to offer her first confession in more than thirty years. She holds a small book on her lap, one that she's made, and tells herself again the Bible stories it contains, the ones she has written anew, for herself, each story told aslant, from Jonah to Jesus, Moses to Mary Magdalen. Woven together and stitched by hand, they provide a new version, virtually a new translation, of the heart of this ancient and sacred text. Rakow's Bernadette traces, through each brief and familiar story, a line where belief and disbelief touch, the line that has been her home, ragged and neglected, that hidden seam.
The result is an amazing book of extraordinary beauty, so human and humorous, and yet so holy it becomes a work of poetry, a canticle, a song of lament and praise. In the private terrain of silence and devotion, shared with us by a writer of power and grace, Rakow offers, through Bernadette, her own lectio divina for the modern world.
No reader will forget this book or be able to read the Bible itself without a new perspective on this text that remains, arguably, Western civilization's greatest literary achievement.
The novel opens with Barbara, who, after remembering incidents of torture at the hands of her father, has quite literally broken down. Found inside a disabled elevator, she is no longer able to function with her new consciousness of these memories—those which are so resistant to understanding. Confronted with this knowledge of evil, she must begin the painful process of remembering and reconstructing a new whole self.
Helping Barbara to navigate her grief and her memories are her therapist, the Psalms, and most of all, the words of Paul Celan. Paul Celan: 1920–1970, Poet. An eastern European holocaust survivor who wrote haunting poems about the darker spiritual trials of life and relationships that exhibit a compact style that fuses broken words and chopped syntax to produce a stark musicality.
This is a novel about a woman who goes to hell and back. It's a story which affirms the resilience of the human spirit and the healing power of love and faith.