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Title: A Cry of Stone Paperback – Jan 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 849 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898709954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898709957
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.5 x 6.1 cm

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Amazon.com: 27 reviews
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A spiritual classic 19 April 2006
By Stephen Hitchings - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Catholic novel has always occupied a precarious position. Most pious novels are of mediocre quality, while the solidly literary works (those of Graham Greene and Francois Mauriac, for example) are often ambiguous in their views on doctrine and morals.

Even those few works that combine literary merit with doctrinal and moral orthodoxy are rarely regarded highly. Most critics ignore or despise any overt Catholicism, particularly in modern fiction, while educated Catholics tend to regard novels as less important than the great works of apologetics, history and social comment.

Nevertheless, the last century has produced many novels on the lives of saints, from the Christian soap operas of Taylor Caldwell to the great political-military-religious histories of Louis de Wohl. There have also been lives of fictional saints, notably Georges Bernanos' Under the Sun of Satan.

The best Catholic fiction attempts to portray the drama of sin and sanctity, damnation and salvation, fought out on the battlefield of the human soul. However, it is much easier to depict evil than sanctity. Portraying a saint is one of the most difficult of a writer's tasks, as holiness is almost always unconvincing. This is what makes Michael O'Brien's book so remarkable.

A Cry of Stone is the fifth book in O'Brien's series, "Children of the Last Days", though it can be read independently. It is a work of honesty, great insight and powerful originality. In my view it confirms O'Brien as not only the premier Catholic novelist of our time but one of the greatest writers now living, even if the literary establishment continues to ignore him.

He is also the only author I know who is more successful in depicting good than evil. His subject, Rose W?bos, is one of the most extraordinary and memorable characters in modern fiction. A native of the Anishinabe people of northern Canada, she is a young woman with a deformed spine, described as "a four-foot-high, brown-skinned, hunchbacked woman whose hair was completely gray but whose eyes and expression were those of a child." (p.629) She has an unshakeable and uncompromising faith, a powerful but unique mystical sense, an ability to read characters, and a heart on fire with love for Christ. She is, in every sense, a saint.

Rose experiences within herself the confrontation between the modern world and the Catholic Faith, a conflict in which the Faith ultimately wins, not in any triumphalistic or argumentative sense, but simply through humility and love. Yet her life is, to all outward appearances, a failure; she calls herself a "nothing-person".

She is a tremendously gifted artist, but artistic success eludes her because her paintings are too demonstrably Catholic - a situation familiar to many artists and writers in recent years.1 However, she uses her failure to develop a spirituality based on art:

She was only a little charcoal stick in the hands of the Beloved. If not her, then another twig would have been sufficient for his purposes. (p. 581)

A Cry of Stone bears up very well against other novels about artists, such as Patrick White's The Vivisector: O'Brien has much more to teach us, and his certainty is more compelling than White's blind striving for mystical experience. Despite her failures and her deformities, Rose is far more human and more inspiring than White's Hurtle Duffield.

Is this a great novel? Many would think not. It is a long book with a rambling plot. Major characters disappear, others are introduced late and then seem to go nowhere. Among much writing of great beauty, there are some tiresome passages.

But O'Brien has achieved something unique: he has not only created a completely original saint but he has shown her from the inside: her thoughts and prayers and her stumbling yet unremitting path toward sanctity. With consummate skill, he combines Rose's Christian and non-Christian traditions in a synthesis that completely avoids syncretism. He shows us how the pagan insight into spiritual realities is not extinguished by Faith but is utterly transformed by the loving hand of God. Along the way, he drags Rose through many painful realities - racism, child abuse, betrayal, untimely death - but always with great sensitivity and yet a minimum of sentimentality. Paradoxically, the result of the complexity of her experience is a character of wonderful simplicity.

Surely this constitutes greatness.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
A Moving Exploration of Christian Spirituality 17 Nov. 2003
By Thomas R. Rourke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A Cry of Stone by Michael O'Brien is one of the most profound, moving and accessible novels I have ever read. This work has the depth of a Dostoevsky combined with the simplicity of the Gospels. O'Brien captures the essence of Christian spirituality; humility, love, and self-sacrifice in the absolutely unforgettable character of a poor, disabled Native American woman named Rose Wabos. This book will awaken your mind and stir your heart to its depths. Some parts were so poignant that I had to put the book down. Through Rose's simplicity, innocence and love, O'Brien exposes the fissures in contemporary civilization. If you need to be convinced that wisdom is found in humility, in littleness, then read this book. This work will go down as a masterpiece of literature, and Rose Wabos a character never to be forgotten. Do the world a favor and buy this for everyone on your Christmas list!
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
A Beacon of Hope 22 Sept. 2004
By Jef Murray - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I was stunned by this book. As an artist, I've never read a book that so thoroughly and truthfully captured not only the process of creating original works of art, but also the foibles and pretense of the "official" art community. And yet the main character, despite being a "small person" with virtually no resources other than faith in God, is completely believable and a tremendous inspiration. There is no doubt in mind that this book was blessed by the saints whose intercession O'Brien prayed for during its creation.

Michael O'Brien's book _is_ long, but I breezed through it in just a few days and was riveted by the story. It is extremely rare in a world fixated on revenge and fighting for "my piece of the pie" to find a book that actually breathes life into a character that has chosen the small way...the way of Christ. Yet Rose Wabos remains very human and very accessible. And at every turn, just when I would expect her to react as _I_ would react, she does something lovely...she chooses to act as Christ would have acted. Over and over I had revealed to me how far I, personally, have to go before I could ever begin to consider myself a real, consistent follower of Christ.

This book is a fictional tale that deals with how to live as Thomas A. Kempis advises us to in "The Imitation of Christ". In that book, Kempis suggests what we need to do to truly follow in Christ's footsteps. In Michael O'Brien's book, we get to see someone do just that, and in seeing it, it makes it somehow more possible, and more within our grasp.

This is the best work of fiction I've read in many, many years.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
On Pilgrimage with Rose Wabos 9 July 2005
By Joann Masters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Just finished A CRY OF STONE and feel compelled to comment on Michael O'Brien's never-failing word art. The story of Rose Wabos, while seldom pretty, is astoundingly beautiful. Readers who have difficulty comprehending the Catholic Christian belief in the redemptive value of suffering will understand perfectly as they accompany Rose Wabos on her faith journey.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
a great read! 24 Feb. 2004
By Linda Snyder - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Enjoyed this book very much. Felt as though I had lost a good friend when the book ended. Michael O'Brien is gifted at creating his characters. I got a little bogged down in the middle with all the art philosophy, but it did not detract me from the story. It was a great illustration of how one can be so beloved of God and suffer so much. There was meaning and value in the suffering. The doubts and pain were so real! And yet it was a book with great wisdom and hope. More from Michael O'Brien!
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