Glass Halo

For a college English major, I spend far too little time reading novels these days. Between my legal reading and reading relating to various retreats and other programs I’m preparing for, I find precious little time for reading anything else other than a newspaper. Happily, I responded positively when my friend Maria asked if I was interested in reviewing Colleen Smith’s first novel, Glass Halo. I was hooked from the first pages and started and finished the book while we were traveling this past weekend.

The two primary characters are both incredibly wounded people, one from an abusive spousal relationship that ended very badly and the other from alcoholism – the first a woman who is a lapsed Catholic and a stained-glass artist and the second a priest whose alcoholism has contributed to temptations that jeopardize his vows.

I always find it difficult to write a review of a novel, wanting and needing to say enough to encourage a reader to pick it up, but wanting to avoid saying so much as to destroy the pleasure of allowing a plot to unfold as one reads. So let me simply say several things about this well-written and compelling book.

First, the author does a wonderful job of conveying the raw emotions of her two main characters, whether it be fear, desperation, longing or love. And not just conveying, but inviting an empathy even when one might find something to criticize in the behavior of one or the other.

Second, Nora’s (the stained-glass artist) journey from sadness and solitary non-life to a place of peace and even happiness is beautifully and movingly told, as it Fr. Vin’s emergence from temptation and re-dedication to his priestly vocation.

Third, the book invites us to grapple with Nora with some hard questions about vocation and about sacrifice and encourages one to work through the important task of distinguishing what is from God vs. what is not from God (reminding us that doing so is much more complicated that determining whether something feels good).

Finally, and in a completely different vein, I have to add that I enjoyed learning so much about stained glass making and restoring. I was as drawn into the technical details of Nora’s work as I was into her spiritual and personal journey.

A beautiful story that I highly recommend.