Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Catholic Book Review: Treasures: Visible and Invisible by (2021)

Treasures: Visible and Invisible
is a brand-new collection of Catholic short stories from a variety of authors and genres, all centering on St. Patrick. In each story, regardless of setting, a shamrock-shaped stone plays an important role. Included here are eight stories, presented in chronological order based on setting:
  • "Treasure in the Bogs" by Theresa Linden tells of the spiritual coming of age of a young man named Magonus Saccatus in 4th century Ireland, and how Magonus comes to use the shamrock as a symbol of the trinity when explaining his faith to others.
  • "A Single Day... Or Not" by Susan Peek follows Brother Dearmad, a 16-year-old monk living several centuries after St. Patrick who wishes he could speed up his path to holiness.
  • "Lucy and the Hidden Clover" by Antony Barone Kolenc is set in 12th century England, where a young girl works to unearth the treasure that will fulfill an elderly nun's dying wish in a surprising way.
  • "Lucky and Blessed" by Amanda Lauer takes place in 1540 in England and brings together Honora, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a baron who finds herself in desperate circumstances and 18-year-old Ambrose, who has recently fled during the dissolution of the monastery where he lived. 
  • "Danke" by Carolyn Astfalk jumps ahead to 19th century Johnstown, Pennsylvania, where we meet William and his large Irish Catholic family, the youngest member of which is very ill with scarlet fever. William needs a miracle for his family, but he's not sure his weekend job at a lake club will be enough help. 
  • "Grace Among Gangsters" by Leslea Wahl is set in the Midwest in the present day, when three teens visit their grandmother and hear for the first time a story from her childhood about a close encounter with mobsters and a surprising source of help.  
  • "In Mouth of Friend and Stranger" by T.M. Gaouette takes place around the year 2000 in London. When Hannah runs away from a dangerous family situation and finds herself on the street, she is befriended by a kind young man named Pat who makes it his mission to see that she finds a safe place to stay. 
  • "The Underappreciated Virtues of Green-Fingered Monsters" by Corinna Turner follows Kyle through a futuristic England in which faith is outlawed and to practice Catholicism or consider the priesthood is a matter of life and death. 

Each story is accompanied by an author's note and a brief author bio. Several of the stories feature characters who appear in full-length works of their own. 

I was completely blown away by how good every single one of these stories is. Most of the time, collections of stories will have highs and lows, stories that work really well and others that don't quite accomplish their goals. This collection, however, is consistently excellent from beginning to end. Every story is engaging. Genres that I typically don't enjoy drew me in anyway, and each of the characters is so memorable I'm still thinking about them weeks later. I loved that each story had the common element of the stone, and of St. Patrick's presence either physically or spiritually, but that each author did such different things with these central themes. 

There is also something so comforting about reading an entire book that aligns with Catholic teaching. I didn't really appreciate how much my guard is often up when I'm reading mainstream fiction until I felt myself relax into the world of these stories. It was so rewarding to be able to settle in fully and trust that the authors were never going to lead me into offensive or blatantly anti-Catholic content. I had a personal affinity for this collection, too, I think, because my father's family is Irish and many of these characters had experiences similar to those I imagine my ancestors must have gone through.

I loved this book so much that I immediately went on Amazon and downloaded the Kindle editions of the two previous collections Catholic Teen Books has published: Secrets: Visible and Invisible and Gifts: Visible and Invisible. I also started making a list of other titles I want to read by these authors. I have mistakenly been of the opinion that Catholic fiction would somehow be boringly pious or otherwise saccharine, and this collection has opened my eyes to all that I have been missing in the world of YA Catholic writing.  I also feel like I want to take another crack at Catholic fiction writing myself and see if there might be room for me in that world. 

All Catholic readers, adults and teens, and even younger kids who are ready for a bit more sophisticated content, need books like this one on their shelves and in their reading lives. I truly cannot say enough good things about this book. There are not many new books I would allow my kids to read because either the content is objectionable or the quality is poor. This book I will absolutely allow - and definitely even encourage - my kids to read when they reach the target age range. 

I was sent a .PDF review copy of this book by one of the authors, Carolyn Astfalk, in exchange for my honest review. 

No comments:

Post a Comment