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Picks and Pans Review: Father Joe

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By Tony Hendra

CRITIC’S CHOICE

In this nuanced memoir of his 40-year friendship with a Benedictine monk, Tony Hendra, an occasional actor (This Is Spinal Tap) and former editor of National Lampoon, offers a smart, funny and ultimately inspiring account of his life as a flawed Christian. Hendra meets Father Joe, a “gargoyle of a man,” at 14, when, after being caught groping an older, married woman from his English village, the lad is sent on a retreat to a monastery. There, instead of passing judgment, Joe stokes his curiosity by saying, “The only sin you’ve committed is the sin of selfishness.”

Even as Hendra began ricocheting between America and England and finding worldly success, the man he called “my still center, the rock of my soul” was available for long walks and gentle counsel. Those, and a constant “connection…to the divine, to the Better, to whatever that God-thing is out there.” More profound than Tuesdays with Morrie (whose narrator recounts a similar spiritual journey), this book is a standout.

MEMOIR