A Guest at the Feast: Essays

S. & S. Audio. Jan. 2023. 9:35 hrs. ISBN 9781797153230. $19.99. LIT
Irish novelist Tóibín (The Magician) narrates this collection of 11 essays, imbuing each with expressive warmth and dry wit. These previously published essays dwell on everything from religion to cancer to literature; all are marked by Tóibín’s piercing observations and powerful prose. Listeners will be captivated from the beginning, where, in the opening essay, “Cancer: My Part in Its Downfall,” Tóibín details his grim battle with testicular cancer. With humor and courage, he describes how an unusual mixture of symptoms delayed his diagnosis, leading to a prolonged ordeal with chemotherapy. The book’s middle section contains essays addressing religion and the Catholic Church. Here, Tóibín details the role of faith and Christianity in Marilynne Robinson’s writing and discusses his complicated feelings about the Pope. He is critical of the political and social stances of the Church in much of his writing.
VERDICT This absorbing collection, so intimately told, is an excellent choice for any library seeking to expand on its religious and social commentary. Tóibín’s fans will want to dig in.
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