I just spent 3 days in the largest Catholic bookstore in the world. I bought one book. This is it:
Then I was stuck in an airport for five hours. Perfect timing.
What it is: Tiến Dương is a real guy about your age (born 1963) who is now a priest in the diocese of Charlotte, NC. Deanna Klingel persuaded him to let her tell his story, and she worked with him over I-don’t-know-how-long to get it right. Fr. Tien is a bit embarrassed to be singled out this way, because his story is no different from that of thousands upon thousands of his countryman. But as Deanna pointed out, if you write, “X,000 people endured blah blah blah . . .” it’s boring. Tell one story well, and you see by extension the story of 10,000 others.
The book is told like historical fiction, except that it’s non-fiction verified by the subject — unlike posthumous saints’ biographies, there’s no conjecture here. It’s what happened. The reading level is middle-grades and up, though some of the topics may be too mature for your middle-schooler. (Among others, there is a passing reference to a rape/suicide.) The drama is riveting, but the violence is told with just enough distance that you won’t have nightmares, but you will understand what happened — Deanna has a real talent for telling a bigger story by honing in on powerful but less-disturbing details. Like, say, nearly drowning, twice; or crawling out of a refugee camp, and up the hill to the medical clinic.
–> I’m going to talk about the writing style once, right now: There are about seven to ten paragraphs interspersed through the book that I think are not the strongest style the author could have chosen. If I were the editor, I would have used a different expository method for those few. Otherwise, the writing gets my 100% stamp of approval — clear, solid prose, page-turning action sequences, deft handling of a zillion difficult or personal topics.
Why “Most Important Book?”
This is a story that needs to be known. It is the story of people in your town and in your parish, living with you, today. And of course I’m an easy sell, because the books touches on some of my favorite topics, including but not limited to:
- Freedom of Religion
- Freedom, Period
- Refugee Camps
- Cultural Clashes
- Goodness and Virtue
- Priestly Vocations
- Religious Vocations
- Marriage and Family Life as a Vocation
- Stinky Mud
- Used Cars
- Huggy vs. Not-Huggy
You get the idea. There’s more. Without a single moment of preaching. Just an action-packed, readable story, well told.