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Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul [Hardcover]

Tony Hendra
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2004
A key comic writer of the past three decades has created his most heartfelt and hard-hitting book. Father Joe is Tony Hendra’s inspiring true story of finding faith, friendship, and family through the decades-long influence of a surpassingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.

Like everything human, it started with sex. In 1955, fourteen-year-old Tony found himself entangled with a married Catholic woman. In Cold War England, where Catholicism was the subject of news stories and Graham Greene bestsellers, Tony was whisked off by the woman’s husband to see a priest and be saved.

Yet what he found was a far cry from the priests he’d known at Catholic school, where boys were beaten with belts or set upon by dogs. Instead, he met Father Joe, a gentle, stammering, ungainly Benedictine who never used the words “wrong” or “guilt,” who believed that God was in everyone and that “the only sin was selfishness.” During the next forty years, as his life and career drastically ebbed and flowed, Tony discovered that his visits to Father Joe remained the one constant in his life—the relationship that, in the most serious sense, saved it.

From the fifties and his adolescent desire to join an abbey himself; to the sixties, when attending Cambridge and seeing the satire of Beyond the Fringe convinced him to change the world with laughter, not prayer; to the seventies and successful stints as an original editor of National Lampoon and a writer of Lemmings, the off-Broadway smash that introduced John Belushi and Chevy Chase; to professional disaster after co-creating the legendary English series Spitting Image; from drinking to drugs, from a failed first marriage to a successful second and the miracle of parenthood—the years only deepened Tony’s need for the wisdom of his other and more real father, creating a bond that could not be broken, even by death.

A startling departure for this acclaimed satirist, Father Joe is a sincere account of how Tony Hendra learned to love. It’s the story of a whole generation looking for a way back from mockery and irony, looking for its own Father Joe, and a testament to one of the most charismatic mentors in modern literature.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400061849
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400061846
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 321,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'...a powerful, intelligent, witty, stimulating and often moving account of Hendra's fall from grace...a fascinating journey of the soul.' -- The Spectator

'...an affecting, thought-provoking and richly cluttered combination of confession, memoir, account of Roman Catholic education and act of hero-worship...' -- The Telegraph

'This extraordinary, luminescent, profound book shows us something wonderfully unexpected and deeply true.' -- The New York Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Tony Hendra is best known for his stand-up comedy with the Monty Python gang and for his role in This is Spinal Tap. He was an original editor of National Lampoon and writes for GQ, Vanity Fair, Esquire and other magazines. This is his first book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Still, Tony wasn't ready to take good over evil. He continued life, going though a tumble into substance abuse, hollow satisfaction as head writer of National Lampoon, and a failed marriage. All along, he struggles with himself as he attempts to find the true meaning of life. The shadow that Father Joe had cast over him in his youth will not let his soul conform to the materialist satisfaction of the world. Eventually, he comes to terms with what Father Joe had attempted to explain to that rebellious teenager so many years earlier and continued to patiently tell him through the years. In the end, Hendra deserts his self-hating ways, as is the case with the ideal stories. Tony eventually finds good over evil and embraces the ways that Father Joe unwearyingly showed him for many years.
The story is about Hendra and Father Joe, but has a hidden reflection on those readers that go through the same private internal war of their own. A well-written book that will do more than just inform and entertain; it will guide you if you let it. Highly recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Father Joe - The Man who saved my soul 6 Sep 2005
I came upon this book quite by accident, and was interested by the range of reviewers on the dust-jacket. Having visited Quarr Abbey a number of times, I was immediately interested in the experiences of Tony Hendra, whose friendship with a Catholic Monk forms a backdrop to his, often turbulent, life. Hendra's prose is frequently beautiful; as one commentator observes, bordering on the mystical in places. His frank accounts of the state of his soul, and his interior battles are powerful, and moving, as many of the turmoils that he encounters will be recognised and empathised with by the reader. The book left me very moved, and as Stephen Fry commented, wanting more. Tony Hendra is to be congratulated, and thanked, for sharing Father Joe with his readers. I cannot praise the book highly enough.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul 6 Feb 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book in many ways articulates my own spiritual journey over the last 30 odd years and consequently I lived and breathed the pages where the author often spoke and met with Father Joe at Quarr Abbey. I, too, knew Father Joe from 1970 onwards though not as well as he - however, the reader doesn't have to have known Father Joe not to be moved by the sheer beauty and intensity of Tony Hendra's writing style. I'm not often emotionally moved these days, but this book certainly did it for me. Surely this publication will go down as a spiritual classic of the future. There is much we can learn about ourselves by reading it. Father Joe was probably the holiest man I am ever likely to met and Tony Hendra succeeds in his endeavours to convey that to the reader. This is one book I will read and read again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than the cover promises 8 Jun 2007
I came across this book by accident: it had been left in the kitchen of a flat that I was moving into and, because I had nothing better to do, I began to read it. And I read and read and did not want to put it down. At some points I read with tears streaming down my face. This is one of the most honest and accessible modern spiritual autobiographies I've ever read.

Tony Hendera, most famous in the UK as a member of Spinal Tap and as co-creator of Spitting Image, charts his own spiritual life from a boy of 14 having an 'affair' with his catechist's wife through aspiring monk, apostate satirist, drug addict, womaniser and, eventually, devoted husband and father. He was guided, informed and unconditionally loved throughout this journey by Dom Jospeh Warrilow, a Benedictine monk who lived at the enclosed Benedictine abbey of Quarr on the Isle of Wight from 1926 until his death in the 1990s. Fr Joe radiates from the page, the author's deep and respectful love for him as string as Fr Joe's deep spiritual (although not, as we are comically told, physical) beauty.

This is a great book. The story of friendship and spirituality that is told is honest and profound. The author is blessed with great insight into his own character and that of Fr Joe. His great skill with the written word does justice to this powerful account of a monk who reached out from behind an enclosure and touched lives. I'm very grateful to the former inhabitant of my flat for giving me the opportunity to have read it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spiritual Uplifting 5 Nov 2004
By A Customer
Don't get me wrong, though it is an uplifting book in many ways, you also see or should I say 'Feel' the heartbreak along the way. This is a Powerful read. There have only been a few books that have touched me so deeply-'Father Joe' is one of them, as well as 'Nightmares Echo','Running With Scissors'and 'A Million Little Pieces'
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