Sophia House

by Michael C. O'Brien

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews
  An excellent end to an excellent series *****

Sophia House is the last book in Michael O'Brien's "Children of the Last Days" series, and is a great end. A prequel to "Father Elijah," the book begins with a powerful politician campaigning in Israel in the 1960s, and is confronted by a woman who knows his real name: David Schaefer.

After the prelude, we see a dramatic escape from the Warsaw Ghetto by a young Jewish boy, who is quickly taken in by a bookseller named Pawel Tarnowski. Sophia House gives some background on Pawel's life, and the reader is priveleged to read a play about the Russian icon painter, Andrei Rublev, right in the middle of the book, written by (the fictional character of) Pawel Tarnowski.

All of the elements that captivated the fans of O'Brien's other novels are here: exploration of the nature of faith, deep dialogue, extensive character development, and a writing style that makes the reader want to keep on going. Most important, O'Brien demonstrates, through fiction, the beauty of faith and grace.

I highly recommend this book; fans of O'Brien will love it, fans of good Catholic literature will love it, and fans of good literature period will love it.

-Jay Young




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  Catholic cosmology at the individual level *****

In Sophia House Michael O'Brien succeeds in painting a very sensitive - and captivating - portrait of a man's soul. The primary character, Pawel Tarnowski is a Polish Catholic who is swept up in the modernist intellectual movements of the early twentieth century. Sophia House chronicles his journey away from and back to his native Poland and his Catholic faith.

Much of the book is set in Nazi occupied Warsaw, with the narrative focused on the relationship between Pawel and a young Jewish man he hides from the Nazis. Mr. O'Brien never stoops to caricature, portraying all of his characters - including the Nazis - as humans, who bearing the lasting imprint of the wound of original sin, either struggle mightily to rise above the gravitational pull toward evil or give up and succumb to its enticements.

Particularly moving is Mr. O'Brien's depiction of Pawel's struggle with homosexual attraction. His insights into and deep understanding of the emotional and spiritual struggles undertaken by Catholic Christians in this condition are remarkable for their nuance, their truth, and their compassion. As an orthodox Catholic, Mr. O'Brien understands that the central, and unavoidable, duty in a Christian's life is to "take up one's cross", to sanctify one's suffering, and finally to be "crucified" with Christ. Nowhere does Mr. O'Brien fall into the trap of assuming that this is easy, and it shows in the struggles faced by Pawel.

But struggle and suffering are only half of the story. Mr. O'Brien does an excellent job of anchoring this call to suffering in what can only be described as a Catholic cosmology. In Sophia House, the supernatural is never far off, especially when it seems most distant. God, His angels, the Blessed Virgin, and Satan inhabit the spaces between the lines of text. At times they make an appearance - Mr. O'Brien rightly takes for granted their reality - by way of drawing back, if only for a moment, the veil between this physical world and the eternal realms. In doing this Mr. O'Brien situates the characters' struggles in a heavenly context, thereby giving the characters untold dignity and infusing the spiritual struggles of the lone individual - including those of the reader - with a great, indeed cosmic, importance.


-E.G. Huntzicker


  An Excellent and Thoughtful Book *****

Michael O'Brien's books have a rare depth to them not found in much of today's popular literature. This book (a prequel to Michael O'Brien's 'Father Elijah') explores many important spiritual and cultural and historical topics, while telling the story of a young Jewish boy being hidden by a disillusioned Polish bookseller in Warsaw during World War II. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to read a book that entertains you while making you think.





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