Every Saint a Sinner

In Every Saint a Sinner by Pearl Solas, Veronica Matthews suffers the unthinkable. Her son Shaun is abused by Catholic priest, Father Paul Peña. Paul is subsequently arrested and imprisoned. Not satisfied that justice has been fully done, Veronica, herself a lawyer, takes on the Catholic Church and experiences first-hand its obfuscation, self-justification and lack of real change. In prison, Paul meets not only one of his victims, but another priest, Father Frank Muncy, who is convicted of paedophilia. What follows is a miraculous, divine intervention that ultimately leads to true repentance, reconciliation and, unbelievably, a proposal of canonization.

Every Saint a Sinner moves expertly through a range of areas. Legal arguments used by the Catholic Church; psychological differences between hebephilia, ephebophilia, paedophilia and paraphilia; and the Christian theology of empathetic reconciliation. Although Solas spends more time on the perpetrators than she does on the victims, she in no way undermines the terrible consequences brought to bear on sufferers of abuse. Her text is balanced. Credibly, Solas shows how the media portray child sex offenders as the lowest form of criminal, beyond correction; how God can forgive and restore these criminals; how a meeting of victim and perpetrator can lead to true healing and forgiveness; and what a Catholic Church’s genuine apology could look like. Although it is likely to be contentious, Every Saint a Sinner is one of the best books I have read. It is brave, bold and brilliantly written. I highly recommend it.

I in fact did not read Every Saint a Sinner. I listened to the audio version. Like the writing, the narration is clear and careful. It contains just the right amount of expression in a voice that in no way calls attention to itself. I was able to listen without distraction. An excellent experience.

I originally read Every Saint a Sinner as a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite. The book is available on Amazon.



I love children’s books with a message. Messages that grapple with weighty subjects. Subjects that are dealt with in ways that promote discussion and convey perspective. Even amongst young children. Two picture books shortlisted for this year’s Kate Greenaway medal do just that. They are Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson, and Drawn Across Borders by George Butler. Both books feature pictures that are formed either around the words, or as part of the words. That is, not separated by blank space or whole pages. I find this makes for more natural ‘reading’ of both words and pictures.

In Milo Imagines the World we meet a little boy travelling on a train with his sister. Milo feels like a ‘shook-up soda’ because of his mixed emotions of love, worry, excitement and confusion. We realise only at the end of the journey why Milo has these emotions: he is going to visit his mother who is in prison. Milo deals with these emotions by drawing the people he sees on the train, imagining them in their private worlds. On a couple of pages we even see Milo’s hand as it clutches the pencil while drawing in the notebook. But, after some time, Milo stops drawing and looks at his own reflection in the train window, wondering what people think when they look at his face. It is this perspective that prepares Milo to see that we simply cannot judge people by their appearance. Milo, and the reader by extension, learns compassion.

Drawn Across Borders is unique, certainly in my experience of children’s books. Its author, George Butler, is a reportage illustrator who covers stories of migration. In the book Butler explains some of his pictures and his experience of drawing them. His words are aimed at children or young adults, and his subjects often feature children: boys sifting through the rubble of their home, a girl smiling at him while she stands in a long queue for food, a boy lying on a hospital bed after having lost one leg in an explosion. It is these children, and otherwise ordinary people, upon whom Butler focuses, revealing what it is like to live as a refugee. The drawings in fine ink with splashes of water colour have an unfinished look about them, perhaps reflecting the impermanence of their subject matter. The people in the pictures come from 11 different countries, Syria, Kenya, Serbia, Lebanon and Iraqi Kurdistan among them. The people migrate for various reasons: work, war, urbanisation. Drawn Across Borders made me realise just how many people live shifting, insecure lives. I see afresh how very secure and stable is my own home life. The drawings, as opposed to photos, are appropriate for children to see. But I think a book like this is, is best read in collaboration with adults. It is worth exposing children to Drawn Across Borders because, like Milo in Milo Imagines the World, children may gain both compassion and perspective. I certainly did.

Paddington 2 is a Delightful, Exciting Adventure

As many filmgoers know sequels can sometimes be disappointing. Others, however, are superb – as Finding Dory, the prequel/sequel to Finding Nemo – was. See A Feast of Tales’ review of that film here https://wp.me/p4c1s1-dF.

An upcoming sequel which opens at cinemas in South Africa on 1 December is Paddington 2. This sequel, likewise, is excellent. Perhaps even better than the first film Paddington. The action opens showing Paddington (the voice of Ben Whishaw) as a happy and accepted part of the Brown family. Still faithful to his ‘bear’ family, however, Paddington longs to honour his Great Aunt’s upcoming birthday by sending her a special gift from London. He finds an unusual pop-up book depicting famous London landmarks in Mr Gruber’s antique shop and settles on that. But the book is expensive and Paddington has to save up enough money by working. He sets about it with his usual penchant for creating unintended disasters and is finally close enough to buying the book. But someone else who wants the book – for obviously shadowy reasons – is the pompous, fake showman Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant). Before Paddington can buy the book it is stolen from Mr Gruber’s shop, Paddington is framed for the theft and he is sent to prison. Horrors!

No worries there. While the cooky Brown family embark on the difficult task of finding the real thief and proving Paddington’s innocence, Paddington, with his usual unfailing good manners, makes friends in prison. He even wins over the fearful chef Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), teaches him to make marmalade and makes prison a jolly charming place to be. A series of adventures involving escape, capture, fearful train journeys and determination lead to a happy conclusion.

Paddington 2 is charming, lovely family entertainment. Paddington’s politeness and honesty, and his commitment to family, highlight values worth exposing young children to. It opens at Ster Kinekor on 1 December just in time for the long school holidays. Don’t miss it.