Not All Of Me Is Dust

Fiction - Literary
343 Pages
Reviewed on 08/10/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Astrid Iustulin for Readers' Favorite

Frances Maureen Richardson’s novel Not All of Me is Dust tells the inspiring story of three siblings, Stephen, Kathleen, and Clare Engle. Although their lives were not happy after their mother’s untimely death, none of them gave up. Stephen became a Jesuit and then decided to go on a mission to Africa, where he found unrest and massacres. Kathleen got married, but her domestic life is not as peaceful and happy as she could have expected. As for Clare, she chose to enter a convent, but then her faith was put to the test, and she had to reinvent herself. Despite adversities and tragedies, Not All of Me is Dust conveys a message of hope while stressing the importance of faith.

Not All of Me is Dust explores every aspect of faith through the stories of the Engle siblings. I am delighted by Richardson’s fine and elegant writing. In her book, you find scholarly discussions about spirituality with religious, philosophical, and literary references that reveal Richardson’s extensive knowledge. However, the tone is never pretentious, and the dialogues are clear and simple. They are easy to understand and enthralling to read. Moreover, I have to add that Richardson is an excellent storyteller. The descriptions, especially those of settings and places, are minute and detailed, while the characters are all well carved and portrayed. Each of them has a precise personality, and each personality adds value to the story. On the whole, Not All of Me is Dust is one of the most refined novels I have ever read.

Ruffina Oserio

Not All of Me Is Dust by Frances Maureen Richardson is a powerful story that had me riveted and that will captivate many readers, especially Christians. At a time when the priesthood is being attacked, especially with the rising cases of sexual abuse, Frances Maureen Richardson writes a novel that redefines vocation and explores the encounter between humanity and grace. Three siblings embrace different paths in life after the death of their parents. Stephen Engle joins the Society of Jesus and becomes a priest; Clare enters the convent where she experiences a crisis of faith, her fantasies shattering in the light of crude reality as her humanity deepens and she seeks clarity in her journey; and Kathleen chooses the path of marriage, which comes with its own challenges.

The story is a tale of vocation and the message is very clear — the path isn’t always easy. This message is exemplified in the life of Stephen, a brilliant young man who chooses to make a difference by following his calling into religious and missionary life. The difficulties that his sisters face in their respective lives will challenge him to reflect deeply on his vocation, but his greatest challenge is working far from home in communities threatened by genocide. In this novel, the author explores the deeper meaning of vocation and the themes of religious and missionary life, marriage and love are beautifully developed. The humanity of the characters is well depicted and the author demonstrates a great sense of setting, giving readers beautiful images of the changing seasons, the sounds and sights of the seashore, and a lot more. The prose in Not All of Me Is Dust is exquisite, sometimes lyrical, and the narrative voice is filled with compassion and clarity. One of those books that changed the way I look at my relationships and my work.

Romuald Dzemo

Not All of Me Is Dust by Frances Maureen Richardson is one of the best things I have read in Christian literature, a heartwarming story that inspires and entertains and one that provokes a gentle revolution in the hearts of readers. The reader is introduced to three siblings — orphans actually — each seeking their purpose and their path. Stephen Engle is handsome and a very gifted young man who joins the Jesuits. Clare Engle enters the convent and Kathleen pursues the path of love. Kathleen will experience heartache and heartbreak while Clare suffers the spiritual aridity that characterizes a crisis of faith. Their brother Stephen continues to serve God’s people in his parish, but when he is sent on a mission abroad, he witnesses the terrifying reality of genocide. Stephen has to rely on the faith he’s embraced to respond in a meaningful way to the challenges of his calling. Can one embrace a vocation and experience peace of mind?

This novel teaches readers that no path is without its challenges, for anyone selling a contrary idea would be selling an illusion. When I was in the seminary, I longed to be out there doing what others were doing and when I came out here, the world remains a strange and hostile place. Stephen’s journey is a powerful message that we can look past the pain, the frustrations, and the challenges that life throws at us and see a light hidden in the darkness. Character development is impeccable and it is interesting to see characters like Clare grapple with the reality of faith and the challenges of life. Not All of Me Is Dust is a novel with a message of hope, one that shows readers the power of faith and a path that liberates from within — the path of generous love. Frances Maureen Richardson’s narrative voice is both endearing and compassionate, a voice that will stir sentiments in the hearts of readers.