Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Listening to the Rest of the Story



Speaking of Marcus Grodi, host of The Journey Home, Kevin O'Brien has had the privilege of performing Marcus' two novels, How Firm a Foundation and Pillar and Bulwark as audio books.

These novels are two connected stories of conversion - filled with humor and insight, drama and theology, they are well worth a read or a listen. In fact, you can preview Kevin's audio performance here and here, by clicking on the "Play Sample" button on the left below the book's cover graphic.

Kevin spoke with Marcus about these two books ...

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Marcus Grodi is known for hosting the EWTN program The Journey Home, in which he talks to converts to the Catholic Faith.  But as candid as these interviews become, we really never hear "the rest of the story" as radio legend Paul Harvey would say.

In his two novels, How Firm a Foundation and its sequel Pillar and Bulwark, MarcusGrodi  tells "the rest of the story".

The novels tell the tale of Stephen LaPointe, a Congregationalist minister, who finds himself, much against his will, in a crisis of faith that quickly becomes a crisis of identity and vocation – what Bl. John Henry Newman went through, only in a contemporary setting, told more vividly. Filled with a gentle humor and a great many scenes of church and family life that ring very true, these novels show Stephen’s struggle with conversion and the effect it has on the people around him.


“I tried in both books,” Marcus Grodi told me, “to be as absolutely accurate as to what I’ve experienced and to what we know other people go through in the difficult journey of a Protestant minister converting to the Catholic Church.”

And this is what is so stunning and compelling about these tales. The long and laborious inner struggle of Stephen and the characters who begin to follow Stephen’s lead or who react against it, is told with an intimacy that one never quite gets to in the hour-long Journey Home interviews, and not even in Newman’s Apologia. The reaction of Stephen’s wife Sara, for example, and the sometimes funny, sometimes tragic scenes of nasty arguments and near chaos behind closed doors in the minister’s house, are the kinds of all-too-human none-too-Christian moments that we all experience but that we’d never talk about on worldwide television – as are the moments when Stephen’s confusion passes into a kind of suicidal despair.

Thus we are able to see on a more personal level the effect of conversion on a person’s most private places, such as their living rooms, kitchens, motel rooms and in the hidden corners of their hearts.

“These are things that a convert won’t even deal with in an autobiography,” Marcus notes. “But this is something an author can deal with in fiction. For example, the disconnect that grows between Stephen and his wife Sara is very real – for men on this journey the battle is inward very often; it’s a battle maybe no one else in the world knows. But it has tremendous repercussions. And using fiction enables me to tell the whole story.”

Having said all of this, I implore you do not buy and read these books.


I repeat – do not buy and read these books.

Instead, download the mp3’s and listen to the audio versions of them.

I know how good the audio book versions of How Firm a Foundation and Pillar and Bulwark are because I recorded them. And by recorded, I mean performed. I adopt character voices and “play all the parts”, making these audio books much more like radio plays than narrations. In fact, I’ve now recorded thirty-one audio books (visit my website for a full list), one of which won an award as a Best Fiction Audio Book of 2009.

And these novels in particular work very well as audio dramas. So get them and listen! And hear “The Rest of the Story”.

(The full version of this article - "Catholic Fiction and the Rest of the Story" - appeared in the March / April 2012 issue of the St. Austin Review.)

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