Ten "forms of devotion" are described briefly in one or two pages of accessible, everyday prose: Faith, Memory, Knowledge, Innocence, Strength, Imagination, Prayer, Abundance, Wisdom, Hope. Each is illustrated with an engraving of an allegorical image with Latin and gothic German text. In the first mini-essay, the narrator contends that "the faithful are everywhere." She demonstrates that faith in a future and in immortal continuity is the driving force, not only for religious folk, but for anyone who goes to school, gets up each day, drives to work, embarks on a journey, takes a pill.

The following mini-essays show how each of the forms of devotion are wielded by "the faithful" to carry on valiantly confronting the challenges of ordinary existence. Faith and Hope together beget power. By the end, the reader senses a certain irony--as if the writer is not a member of the faithful. She may acknowledge and sometimes envy their resolute success, but does she share it? Perhaps not, and we are left wondering if she even admires it.


References throughout these tiny prose poems to food, diseases, bodies, and health constitute talking points for medical students who are rarely encouraged to think about spirituality in their own lives and those of their patients, especially when it comes packaged in a form that is alien to organized religion. Throughout this collection, the writer gives her twentieth-century sources for the illustrations, but unfortunately she does not provide their origin. The lacuna reminds us that this is not a historical or a social essay, but a work of art that combines words and pictures. The author calls these creative essays "stories."


The book in which this essay appeared won the Governor General's Award for English Fiction.

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Forms of Devotion: Stories and Pictures



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