Do Not Go Gentle: My Search for Miracles in a Cynical Time

by Ann Hood
New York: St Martin’s Press

Reviewed by Carole McDonnell

Ann Hood believed in God. Her mother and grandmother were Catholic Italian-Americans and she had something of their faith. But she was also a modern woman who had faith in God. She had heard the family stories about the power of prayer especially through the saints. But when her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she began to put those saints and her faith to the test.

It’s one thing to believe in God when all is well. But it is quite another to believe in a God who is capable of healing one’s father of cancer. Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent takes it by force. Certain blessings from heaven can only be gotten by holy violence, a kind of divine pushiness that can wear some people down.

But Ann Hood was not to be worn down. The title of the poem comes from the Dylan Thomas poem, “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” In the poem, the poet tells the dying –especially the cruel people who were dying– not to go gently into their death. They should rage, rage against the dying of the light. Hood turns this sentiment around. For one thing, her father was not a bad person. He was a good loving father. For another, Hood was not raging. She was quite simply going to get a miracle for her father. Although the hospital gave her no hope and tolerated her desire for a miracle, she went on a spiritual journey to find one.

She got her miracle. Evangelicals might have a problem with her turning to saints and relics but Catholics and high-church Anglicans like myself have no problems with it. Her father was cancer free. Later, for no apparent reason, he simply died from a sudden coma. She had had foreshadowing dreams but this is where her spiritual journey became complicated. She wondered if her prayer was wrong: she had prayed that God heal the tumor. But she had not prayed and asked God to let her father live.

The book is a recounting of her spiritual and real journeys to discover her Italian heritage and to get closer to her faith. I highly recommend the book. The writer’s narrative voice is friendly, fun and conversational and many children of immigrants will identify with the stories she tells about her childhood and the land of her heritage. As for not going gently, it is a reminder to many Christians that giving up easily is not an option for a Christian. And yet, if we seem to lose the fight against death, God is lovingly and providentially preparing for us. A great book.

© Spiritual Woman Press, 2005. All rights reserved.