Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Book Review: Five Years in Heaven

Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life's Greatest Questions

by John Schlimm
New York: Image Books, 2015

I am a huge fan of "The Christmas Tree" by Julie Salamon and the movie by the same name which starred Andrew McCarthy and Julie Harris. McCarthy is a landscape architect who works for Rockefeller Center and Harris plays Sr. Anthony who owns the tree that McCarthy wants to use for the famous Christmas tree that becomes a symbol of New York each year. The two form an unlikely friendship, each teaching the other some valuable lessons. The parallels between that story and "Five Years in Heaven" by John Schlimm are many.

Schlimm was 31 years old, had worked in public relations for Tipper Gore when she was Second Lady as well as for Nashville star Naomi Judd. He had gone back to school graduating from Harvard in order to become an English teacher, but had found himself unemployed, living back in his hometown, and working as a sub at his high school alma mater. Rather disappointed at his place in life, his friend brought him to meet Sr. Augustine, the nearly 90 year old sister who worked at the local Benedictine convent's ceramic shop.

Sr. Augustine and Schlimm would develop a close friendship over the next five years. Sr. Augustine would teach Schlimm much about life. Schlimm in turn would help promote her ceramic work, finding new customers and even having her interviewed by the local media.

This book is worth reading because of the lessons Sr. Augustine, who has since gone on to her eternal reward,  has to offer, which Schlimm has lovingly shared with the world. This story also inspired #thankanun day which was held on May 5th to coincide with the book's publication date.

Here is one of my favorite quotes by Sr. Augustine: "What happens in that kiln is out of control once I shut the lid. Just like the things that happen in life. We have no control over the joys and sorrows that come to us. . . .Yet each joy and sorrow is a gift. . . . We can choose whether to let that sorrow destroy us or make us stronger, better people."

You can see examples of Sr. Augustine's work here: http://johnschlimm.com/2015/06/24/the-art-of-sister-augustine/ 

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