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Catholic Review of: All the Way to Heaven

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Author:  Dorothy Day

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This item received 4 stars overall. (05/21/2014)

Orthodoxy: Completely orthodox.
Reading Level: Intermediate

 Stuart DunnBy Stuart Dunn (AL) - See all my reviews


Get to know Dorothy Day by reading some of her personal letters

Evaluator Comments

If you want to know, and I mean really know, a historical figure, read what they personally wrote. Although their writings of fiction and/or nonfiction are edifying to read, they will only provide you with a glimpse of their lives as they wanted it to be seen.  To truly understand them, you need to read what they really wrote, like letters or personal correspondence. In these very personal writings, they bare their soul and reveal a side of them you might have never seen otherwise. This is true of Dorothy Day's letters, as can be seen in the book All the Way to Heaven.

All the Way to Heaven is an anthology of letters written by Dorothy Day from 1923 to 1980. I did some research to find out the year in which she was born (which was 1897 if you were wondering). This means that these letters began when she was approximately 26 and continued til February of 1980, when she was 82 years old. This is impressive in and of itself. Like most twenty-somethings, her early letters deal with love and relationships. This first series was written ten years before she established the Catholic Worker movement. By reading these letters, we are able to see her life before God got a hold of her.

We then see a dramatic shift in the next series of letters.  By this time, she had become the leader of a lay movement and was addressing issues of labor and social justice. her focus had shifted towards helping others and away from herself. The rest of the letters continue to show her spiritual growth and maturity, as well as the advancement of her newspaper and the cause for which she fought her whole life - social justice. Besides writing to ordinary lay people interested in her cause, Dorothy Day also wrote to some of the most important people in her day, including bishops and Thomas Merton.

I did not read all the letters, as they span nearly 600 pages. However, during the ones I did read, I found myself wishing to read the responses she received to these letters. I feel it would have fleshed out the dialogue more and made for more interesting reading. I did like that there was an index at the end, as it was helpful if you were looking for a letter to a specific individual. While this book isn't technically a biography, it feels biographical in a way as you read through it. Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.  

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