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A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister

Julie Mars

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (1 Review)
Book Details

Publisher : Grey Core Press

Published : 2005

Copyright : Grey Core and Julie Mars 2005

ISBN-10 : PB 0-9742074-5-4
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-9742074-5-2

Publisher's Write-Up

After learning that her beloved sister Shirley had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, writer Julie Mars knew exactly what she needed to do: pack up, leave the life she loved in New Mexico, and head directly to her sister, in upstate New York. Mars spent seven months at her sister's side, in the mysterious borderland between life and death - a time of intense sadness and unexpected beauty, great pain and even greater happiness.

When Mars finally returned to New Mexico to pick up the pieces of her own life, she was overtaken by an unexpected compulsion: she wanted to go to church. Having witnessed her sister’s spiritual turbulence - as well as her physical decline - Mars found herself immersed in spiritual questioning, and, at times, despair. And so she began her own pilgrimage - visiting thirty-one churches over a period of as many weeks - A Month of Sundays.

From the most traditional churches to houses of worship on the farthest fringe of mainstream life, Mars takes the reader on a journey that goes the distance - from grief to healing and beyond. But while the focus of this honest, evocative and beautifully written story is Mars' search for meaning and peace, it is also a laugh-out-loud, cry-out-loud memoir of two sisters whose lives cross at crucial moments—and not a page goes by that does not reveal some new insight into the beauty and wonder of the human heart.

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Reader Reviews

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Review by Connie (310506) Rating (9/10)

Review by Connie
Rating 9/10
In the preface of her newest book, A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister, Albuquerque, New Mexico author, Julie Mars says: “For seven months, I took care of my sister, Shirley, who was dying of pancreatic cancer....I witness her intense spiritual turbulence and her return to Catholicism... .I consider it an honour and a privilege to be with her every day as she considers the state of her soul... As my sister¹s faith forms its final shape and hardens, mine disappears... When I return home to Albuquerque, I feel a driving need... to go to church.”

So Mars does, for 31 Sundays, the equivalent of a month, visiting Christian, Sort-of-Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Unitarian, and non-sectarian places of worship.

Each visit triggers thoughts, feelings and remembrances of Shirley, their siblings and parents; and Shirley¹s children. Using simple, direct language, Mars interweaves her family¹s relationships, Shirley¹s advance toward death, and her own spiritual search for something she can call God, into a microcosm of human experience.

A visit to the Church of the Latter Day Saints evokes this thought: “My father taught me, expected me, to be tough, to follow my own strong will, and not apologize for it. I did. But secretly, I locked myself in the closet and cried so hard I could not breathe. Waves of sadness washed over me, washing me away, and I was enormously bereft, lonely, scared of everything. That was when Shirley would whisper through the door that she wanted to come in. I would crawl into her lap and drink in her silence.”

Describing this intimate moment, Mars states a universal truth. Independence can terrify. Everyone needs a safe person and a safe place. Everyone faces the moment when they must lose that security.

The combination of universal and personal experience in this and many other paragraphs in the book makes A Month of Sundays: Searching for the Spirit and My Sister a compelling, tender, and moving read.

So do Mars’ frank descriptions of caring for a dying person, right to the moment Shirley becomes so weak, she needs diapers, just before her ‘Final Dive,’ as Mars calls it, into delirium and coma. Mars’ spiritual search and its climax, add a final touch on the last page of the story.

A Month of Sundays is a thoughtful and moving book for anyone, but especially for those facing illness, death, loss, spiritual crisis, and grief. The story is not for the airport or the beach, but for a time to sit down, and think, about life.
Connie (31st May 2006)

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