Spiritual guidance for anyone seeking a path to God. explorefaith.org


Explore God's Love Explore Your Faith Explore the Church Explore Who We Are  

> Bookshelf > In Sweet Company...
Join our mailing list
Join our mailing list
Send this page to a friend

Support explorefaith.org

Give us your feedback

Bookshelf home

Modern Classics

Popular Fiction
Commentaries on Religion and Culture
explorefaith.org books
History of Faith
Author Interviews
Online Book Group
Living Your Faith
Memoirs and Biographies

Bookshelf Index


In Sweet Company:
Conversations with Extraordinary Women
about Living a Spiritual Life

by Margaret Wolff
Jossey-Bass, 2004

review by Heidi Schlumpf

If the buzz about Tom Cruise’s Scientology and Madonna’s dabbling in Kabbalah is any indication, people are dying to know about the spiritual beliefs and practices of celebrities. Chicago Sun-Times reporter Cathleen Falsani’s new book The God Factor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006) promises to go “Inside the Spiritual Lives of Famous People” in interviews with the likes of Melissa Etheridge, Tom Robbins and Anne Rice. Two years before her, Margaret Wolff did the same thing—only she focused on 14 women known for their spirituality or charitable work rather than their singing or acting.

The best part of In Sweet Company (Jossey-Bass, 2004) is the diversity of subjects chosen by Wolff. A few have some name recognition, like death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean, actress Olympia Dukakis, bestselling author Riane Eisler and dancer Katherine Dunham. Others may be well known in their fields, such as psychologist Miriam Polster, organizational consultant Margaret Wheatley and Episcopal priest Lauren Artress. A few were clearly chosen for their accomplishments: Rabbi Laura Geller was one of the first female rabbis in the U.S., Iraqi immigrant Zainab Salbi founded an organization to help women in war-torn countries and Gail Williamson helps disabled people become actors. Native American Twylah Hurd Nitsch, Hindu Sri Daya Mata and Buddhist Le Ly Hayslip provide further religious and ethnic diversity to the mix.

Each interviewee has wisdom to share, and there are some real gems, especially on the topics of adversity and suffering. When asked if she has had any “dark nights of the soul,” Prejean, who has walked with men to their deaths, responds that darkness isn’t always a bad thing. “We are conceived and swim in darkness until we are born,” she says. “Darkness is fertile and fecund. It’s a womb. It brings interiority.”

Latina children’s author Alma Flora Ada learned to embrace pain as a teacher. “Pain does not alter the beauty of life, the magnificence and mystery of life, and my gratitude for the mystery,” she says.
Wheatley, who specializes in change management, sees value in chaos. “Chaos can release your creative power in the same way that necessity is the mother of invention,” she says. “When things get extreme, when the old ways don’t work, that’s when you are your most inventive. If you want to grow, chaos is an indispensable part of the process.”

The subtitle of In Sweet Company promises “Conversations with Extraordinary Women about Living a Spiritual Life”—and these interviews are indeed conversations. In fact, Wolff’s voice is annoyingly omnipresent, each chapter introduced with her description of how she chose the subject and her travel to the interview, including how the setting up of her audio recording equipment. The profiles would have been stronger, in my opinion, without the insertion of her random thoughts and repetitive questions (Why did she keep asking “What advice would you give others?” when so many interviewees insisted they don’t give advice?).

In her introduction, Wolff describes a serious car accident that left her with some brain damage that affects her ability to think linearly. If she is to be a main character in this collection of spiritual women, she should have done it more overtly. But despite her intrusions into these stories of extraordinary women, In Sweet Company still offers more depth and meat than any profile of Tom Cruise or Madonna.

Copyright ©2006 Heidi Schlumpf


In Sweet Company
To purchase a copy of IN SWEET COMPANY, visit amazon.com. This link is provided as a service to explorefaith visitors and registered users.


(Return to Top)


Send this article to a friend.

Home | Explore God's Love | Explore Your Faith | Explore the Church | Who We Are
Reflections | Stepping Stones | Oasis | Lifelines | Bulletin Board | Search |Contact Us |
Copyright ©1999-2007 explorefaith.org