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Last Night In Philly

Because the wi-fi at my hotel last night was on the fritz, I didn’t have the opportunity to post a note about last night’s Little Way Of Ruthie Leming reading in Plymouth Meeting, a Philly suburb. It was so, so wonderful to see old friends from the neighborhood, from the homeschool group, and from Templeton, and a real treat to see blog friends like Franklin Evans, John Mark Ockerbloom, T. H., and Ryan D. [I hesitate to use your real names if you don’t use them online]. To be honest, it was very much a bittersweet night for me, because it reminded me of what good friends we had in the Philly area, and how good our lives were here. I know we did the right thing in moving to St. Francisville, but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t suffer a real loss.

It’s frustrating too that I don’t have the time or the energy to spend time with folks before or after these signings. I’m on a very tight schedule, and because of mono, really tired almost all the time. My publicist at Grand Central is being the Mean Mommy (and I’m grateful to her for it!), ordering me to rest as much as I can, because I have to hit 10 cities in 11 days. I know I have to do this — it’s only day three of the tour, and already I feel like I could curl up in bed and not leave — but it has the effect of making it seem like I only get to see dear friends as if through the window of a train that barely even stops at the station.

Sorry to bore some of you with the relentless Little Way stuff, but honestly, this is all-consuming right now, and I barely have time for anything else (though I hope to use the time on the train to DC this morning to get caught up on other reading, and posting.) Tonight: northern Virginia, 7pm, at the Barnes & Noble in Tysons Corner. Go to RodDreher.net for more cities, dates, and venues on this tour, which moves to the South tomorrow.  Meanwhile, check out these great comments e-mailed or posted by readers. This one is from a priest:

Wow Rod.  You’ve touched the hearts of Americans everywhere.  I read the first page, closed the book and began to cry.  There, I thought, in one moment, in one action of a child, is the whole of love, the revelation of God’s unconditional love for all of us.  There is the Father who runs to embrace the Prodigal Son, not only because his heart yearns for the touch of his son, but in order to protect him from the blows of the righteous villagers who would stone him for his crime against the Father and the village.  There, in Ruthie’s spontaneous act of love, is God.

And this one is from a Dallas friend who comments here under the name Dommerdog:

Oh, Rod. For the second night, I have to put the book down and go to bed; but I can’t do it without sharing some of my thoughts with you. Firstly, you’ve managed to capture, without creating it through flowery literary artifice, human chemistry -the chemistry between you and your father, you and Ruthie, Ruthie and everybody she knew, and the powerful romantic chemistry between her and Mike. Knowing you, and having followed Ruthie’s situation through your writings, and knowing pretty much what to expect through the reviews and the excerpts you’ve previously published were still not enough to prepare me for the impact of the story, the characters, and the chemistry which draws me deeper into the story as I continue to read. But there’s stuff that I didn’t expect (and I love good surprises, even in the midst of tragedy) that have impacted me profoundly.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I direct you to the 50% mark in my Kindle. Perhaps that tells you nothing. Unfortunately I don’t know the page number in the book. You write: “The truth – the whole truth, that is – would not set her free, but would make her captive to anxiety, and tempt her to despair.”

During Lent, I prayed the Rosary nightly and during the Joyful Mysteries my meditations roamed frequently to the concept of original sin (starting with “how could Mary have been born without original sin” and what does that mean and if she was born without it yet Jesus was the only perfect human, then didn’t she have to have sinned at some point in her life?”) I’ve wondered throughout my life about Adam and Eve and why, with all the good things available in the garden, they had to risk it all and lose it all on the one thing that was forbidden them.

And then I read your sentence which, to me, addressed the concept of original sin with an interesting twist: we don’t know God’s will, and He’s already told us we cannot understand his ways; but with Ruthie (and I think with all of us at certain times in our lives), without issuing a command, he let her know that in exchange for her allowing him to do his will (and perhaps do his will through her), he would grant her peace but that there was something she should not seek to know in exchange for that peace. The corollary to that being that were she to know what she shouldn’t know, it is possible that whatever He wished to achieve through her might be unachievable. Ruthie had the faith and humility (combined with a healthy dose of self interest because, as you say, she was not a plaster saint) to obey, even though there was no thunderclap accompanied by Moses descending from the clouds carrying a commandment on a tablet.

Not that any of this solves the mystery of original sin, but it gives me more to ponder.

I already know that once I finish this book, I will have to re-read it. I’ve already come across a few of these Easter eggs in your narrative but am so caught up in the story that sometimes I just cannot stop to give them the consideration they deserve. I think some of this might not have even been intended by you in the process of writing; but it is there.

Awesome! Thank you for writing this.

Thank you for saying so! One of the most gratifying observations I’ve been getting is how so many people say they appreciate that this is a memoir of grief, dying, and finding faith and meaning in pain — a memoir that is not sappy or sentimental. There are lots of tears, people tell me, but they’re not cheap and dishonest. It’s so great to hear and to read this, because I hate sentimentality, and believe the integrity of Ruthie’s story deserves better than easy emotionalism.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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