Book Reviews

‘The Gift’ is a book worth giving, ‘The Vow’ comes with a surprise

Reviewed By Zane Knauss

Twenty years ago, writer Katherine Valentine hit on an idea to demonstrate her deep love of God and her commitment to Mary with an unselfish, life-long desire to offer the rosary to all who would accept it.

The “Ministry of the Holy Rosary” is described in her latest book, “The Gift.” It is part anecdotal for curious readers and part instructional for those who desire to join this emotionally fulfilling effort.

It doesn’t take much physical effort, just a rosary larded with prayers and an eagerness to put it in the hands of someone perceived to need its restorative power.

Valentine chronicles the time, place and circumstance that triggered her quietly effective vocation: a church and an elderly, homeless, woman.

She was touched by the utter helplessness on the face of this troubled woman when a voice within her gently commanded, “Give her your rosary.” It was the voice of Mary.

This rosary was not a trifle plucked from a knick-knack shelf but a gorgeous gift of pure silver from her husband. With some reluctance, she placed it in the cupped hands of a surprised and grateful human being.

Since that moment, hundreds of prayer-laden rosaries have been given to those most in need of the comfort they bring to the always grateful recipients. The effort also helps the church’s need for evangelization since it encourages the power of intercessory prayer, a vital product of the “Ministry of the Holy Rosary.”

At times, Valentine seems to be possessed with the role Mary plays in her daily life. At one point she accepts Mary’s suggestion to ditch her professional literary agent.

A cursory look at several pages of the book as though it is a baseball scorecard would show the ninth inning score to be Mary – 7, Jesus – 0. Don’t be fooled. This book is about the veneration of Mary but the adoration of Jesus her Son.

A short novel written by Milton M. Smilek, “The Vow” follows the sometimes tortuous path to adulthood of Tony, a young Puerto Rican.

When he migrates to New York to join his mother, sister and brother there, his perpetual moral anchor is a stream of pithy-laden letters from an adored grandfather.

With encouragement from his grandfather, Tony pursues a college degree, assiduously avoiding most of the temptations associated with big campus life. He finds Stephanie, his first love and revels in the prospect of marriage; but her father has other ideas.

The well-intentioned but misguided parent engineers the report of his daughter’s death. Strangely, Tony does not challenge the family account of the incident.

This is the near fatal tear in the otherwise bittersweet fabric of a classic romance violently destroyed. As an ex-cop, author Smilek had to know you could not officially bury the details of a fatal accident.

Central to their love for each other, Tony and Stephanie had vowed not to marry if one or the other died or was killed.

And here is where the story takes on twists of faith, morality and forgiveness. Time passed. Tony’s generation came and went. Only one player in this moving drama is left standing. Who is it? That is for the reader to find out and it will surprise.

“The Vow” is an easy read, a feel good yarn that sets out to prove that good things happen to good people doing good things for all the right reasons, and succeeds.