Sunday, July 26, 2009


Wow! I scratched my head the whole time I was reading this book. I think I was trying to figure out if it was an allegory. There was such an air of unreality about it.

But perhaps, that is how another person's deeply religious experience always seems to someone else. Turns out this was a novel - the story of Archie Caswell's spiritual journey. Archie is a teen with a guilty conscience. So he's vulnerable. To make matters worse, his best friend moves away. So he's lonely.

Enter Clare, a mysterious girl with a message from God. Archie is captivated with her religious fervor and with the beauty and gentleness that seem to radiate from her. He is willing to try her religious rituals in hopes of overcoming the guilt he feels surrounding his grandfather's death. But he wants more than to be rid of guilt. He wants all that goodness he sees in Clare.

He does have some transcendent moments when he feels that God is with him, in him, and all around him. He has just enough of them to keep him following his new spiritual leader. He sometimes questions her decisions but mostly he sees how selfless she is and chides himself for doubting. And he questions himself, feeling guilty that he does not love God enough.

He wishes he, too, could go without food and devote himself to prayer. But hunger makes him grumpy and that adds to his guilt. There are moments when his relationship with Clare wears thin but she is so singly focused on becoming a saint, so forgiving and kind in response to him, that he always comes back to trusting her.

Then eventually he has to make a choice - to listen to and trust the voice of God speaking within him OR to continue to blindly follow Clare.

When We Were Saints includes a Reader Chat Page with thought provoking questions. And readers will likely have many questions of their own as they follow this story. Lots of food for thought here. Lots of lively discussion potential!

A great read for anyone struggling with issues of faith! And for anyone interested in exploring the interplay of psychology and spirituality.

Han Nolan is author of If I Should Die Before I Wake (1994); the National Book Award finalist Send Me Down a Miracle (1996); the National Book Award winner Dancing on the Edge (1997); A Face in Every Window (1999); Born Blue (2001) and A Summer of Kings (2006).


  1. Wow! I really want to read this book after reading your post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Amy Lizzy, I'll happily loan it to you!


  3. Thanks for the loan! Really enjoyed this one. ;-)