Book Review: Astonished


Evil paid me a visit.

Prayer chased it away.

Beverly Donofrio

Warning: do not open this book unless you have an open heart.  If you’re in a cynical mood, best to leave this alone until you’re ready to be inspired by one woman’s spiritual journey.

If you’re ready, however, then Beverly Donofrio is offering her readers something precious.

Many thanks to Viking/Penguin Group for sending us a copy of Astonished; a book that I would describe as candid and inspiring.

In Astonished, Donofrio generously invites you in as she recounts how she was able to cope with life following her rape.  With faith, affection and yes, some humor, she shares the path she took to heal her soul.  Many of us don’t want to look.  We don’t want to hear about the violence of rape, or how women deal with its aftermath.  But Donofrio puts her arm around us, and tells us that we will be better off if we listen to the story of her pilgrimage.  She’s right.  And let me say right away, she’s wonderful.

In Driving In Cars With Boys (Hoarder confession – I did not read the book, but rather, saw the movie), Donofrio shares her experience as a teenage mother, and a young woman who must mature as she raises her son.  Despite her youth and dealing with the lost soul that was the boy’s father, Donofrio persevered and emerged from the experience stronger.  The story was raw and sweet, and the author’s honesty and humor radiated from the screen.

Astonished leaves a different impression.  In her mid-fifties, Donofrio was already exploring her faith, and was contemplating a cloistered religious life.  She was heading toward a change when a stranger turned things upside down.  In her own bedroom in her home in Mexico, the author was raped.  She certainly did not foresee being held at knife point.  She did not expect that the home she designed with such affection would be stripped of its safety because of the intrusion of one man. Somehow, however, she was able to fend her attacker off with prayer; it seemed to expel him from her home.  As it turned out, the man was a serial rapist, and had targeted many other women in the area for an extended period of time.  With the author’s help, he was caught.  But the rape propelled Donofrio to look for answers.  What, she thought, should she learn from it?  How can she overcome her fear?  Can she overcome it?

It’s difficult to summarize Donofrio’s journey, so I will not attempt to do so.  What I will say is that it was fascinating to observe her grappling with everything from fear to faith.  She visited five monasteries.  She went on retreats.  She spent time with her grandchildren.  She contemplated becoming a nun.  She took religious vows.

She wrestled with the existence of evil.

Since the rape, I am closer to God than I have ever been.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Since the rape, I am more frightened than I have ever been.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Beverly Donofrio

Rather than choosing to live in anger and despair because of what happened to her, the author sought solace.  She found strength in observing nature, and having heart-to-heart talks with others who had strong faith.  The fact that she was able to move forward while simultaneously embracing her vulnerability was remarkable. Donofrio is humble, intelligent and intensely grateful.  She proved that you can come out of a terrible situation more in tune with your own spirituality.

beverly-donofrio2I don’t believe for a moment that Donofrio’s journey is complete, but I do thank her for sharing her wisdom.  4 stars for a touching memoir that brims with sincerity and love.  By opening her heart, she teaches us that forgiveness is not only possible, it’s necessary for the soul to heal.