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Sister Helen Prejean – River of Fire: On Becoming an Activist

Hodder 294 pages Price £10.99 ISBN 978 1 529 36833 8

This is the prequel to the author’s best-selling story Dead Man Walking, turned into an award-winning film by Tim Robbins. Susan Sarandon won an Oscar for best actress for playing the role of Sister Helen in the film. This book is the back story of that the nun who was responsible for that phenomenal success.

It some ways it is a very ordinary story of a woman full of life giving herself to her vocation. In some ways the picture painted of the Catholic and some of its priests in not so very compelling. Yet it does capture well the tension and conflict within a person who is in a “Holy Order” but is looking for a little bit more.

Sister Helen describes how she was awakened as an activist:

During the civil rights era in 1960’s USA she felt sympathy for the cause of Dr Martin Luther King but took no action. She had “Cool admiration, but no fire”. The spark was created when she learned to play Bob Dylan’s song Blowing in the Wind.

“A mighty wind was blowing, all right, all over the place, rattling the windowpanes and pushing at doors in the beleaguered lives of black people all around me.

Until I got Jesus right, I couldn’t hear it.”

Worth reading if you are interested in the era, and want a nudge toward the action that often speaks louder that words.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex




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