Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood: Thoughts

One of the best books I’ve read in recent memory, it made me laugh out loud more than any book ever has and moved me to sad tears when I wasn’t in funny tears. I would proselytize this book about a priest’s daughter to anyone and I found myself reading funny bits out loud to family members and friends, insistent that everyone should hear the comic and poetic genius of Lockwood.

The pervasive tone of this book is one of love that Lockwood has for her family. She writes this memoir while staying in her childhood home as a grownup (with her husband) to save money and she records and observes her family for this memoir. While she is not religious anymore, that doesn’t stop her or her family members from loving each other in such a full and nourishing way. It was a joy to read this book just to see the deep love that is capable between a family that disagrees about something that more often than not rips other families apart. Also refreshing is her fondness for religion, the lack of resentment for her past and her past religion. There are moments of regret and wistfulness and of course, actual ugliness…such as when she writes about her rape, or the many failings of the Catholic church… but so often, people who are no longer religious are so devoutly and violently atheist. This book wouldn’t have been possible without her strong love and curiosity for her family and the objectiveness and empathy with which she is able to view people who have viewpoints very different from her own; viewpoints that I wouldn’t hesitate to say are wrong.

What I love most about Lockwood is that she is always in awe… not of a god she doesn’t know, but of every detail of every person in her life. She looks at everything with light, reverence, and love, the way many religious people I think, would be envious of. She writes about the similarities and differences she has with her father (the person most different from her, though their occupations as priest and poet have a natural closeness) but neglects the similarity she has to the Father. Her writing reminds me of the Christian God’s purported omniscience, capable of seeing everything about his flawed people, and doing so with unwavering love. She examines a lot of the uglier issues of the Catholic church and also the uglier mindsets and thoughts that her beloved family believe without letting them influence how she feels about them as a whole. Many religious people I know believe that humans are inherently sinful, bad, but can become good by acceptance of God into their lives. This book is beautifully the opposite. Humans are good, and sometimes what makes them the most “human” or “inhuman” is God, the Church, and the societal and self-harming things you must do to serve them.

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