Book Review: The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be by Brian Doyle

Brian Doyle’s writing is contagious. No matter how hard I try to resist, I soon find myself modeling his quirky syntax, abundant adjectives and long strings of words that cascade like waterfalls. I admire the way he synthesizes his family life with his faith; as I’ve often said, we need more parents’ voices in a church dominated by celibate saints and clergy.

He can pluck a 50-year old memory from whatever bin it’s stored in and it emerges fresh and shiny: he is eight, his brother is seven, they are eating cereal on Saturday morning while watching cartoons, and the whole scene is varnished in sunlight. “Even when it rained it didn’t.” He explains the comfort of memory:

“How is it that what we experienced, we always experience

And even what we think we forget is never actually gone?”

Doyle is a genius at unveiling the sacramentality of popsicles, rebounds, cedar needles, four year olds, the snap of a baseball bat, scuffling in leaves, owl feathers, attentive doctors, a pint, the chinook, old confessionals, storytelling cops, ratty jerseys. In one succinct sentence, he describes what theologians don’t say as well in volumes of sacramental theology: “there are no tiny things, not at all.” Or: “Everything speaks clearly if you can decipher the language, the music.”

The only way to read Doyle is in short spurts: gorging on too much at once can be unpleasantly like an overdose of ice cream. But read slowly, savored, cherished, he helps us appreciate the sheer grace and blessing of our own momentous minutiae.


Available from Liturgical Press, 2016, $14.95,

One response to “Book Review: The Kind of Brave You Wanted to Be by Brian Doyle

  1. thanks so much for this Kathy – I’ve just been introduced to Brian Doyle (where was I?) by a great testament to his life in AMERICA Magazine. I’m cruising to find his many books – and loved what you said about ice cream – ha! True. I just LOVED Chicago that novel of falling in love with the city and I’ve read much of LEAPING – short essays about funny aspects of life – one about having his CAR CRUSHED like a pancake and he was astounded to hear the crusher tell of this WORK that feeds his soul. Just thanks – fun to have found YOU too!

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