Reviews of Dodging Satan
What do you do if you’re a young girl roiled by an emergent if little understood sexuality and conflicting emotions toward your parents, and immersed in an extended family context populated by unfaithful and abusive men and unhappy women who want better? At least if you’re the protagonist in this playful but gripping coming of age tale by Kathleen McCormick, you draw upon a mishmash of Catholic popular culture to create outrageous narratives that help to make sense of it all. (God the Father pissed off at married women because Eve chose Adam over Him? Priceless!) Women who didn’t have access to the Catholic Imagination while growing up will be jealous.
—Michael P. Carroll, author of Madonnas that Maim, Catholic Cults and Devotions, The Cult of the Virgin Mary and many other studies of popular Catholicism
Tender and ruthlessly honest, Kathleen McCormick’s beautiful first novel draws us into the world of Italian Irish Catholicism as experienced by its unforgettably wise and desperately innocent girl narrator. There’s magic in this world—and while we are charmed by its glow, we are also repeatedly unsettled by the darkness behind that glow. We follow Bridget with trepidation, captivated by her vulnerability and her fierceness, trusting there’s much to learn from her journey.
—Edvige Giunta, author of Writing with an Accent and co-editor of Personal Effects
Dodging Satan outdoes Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood in its wit, intelligence and irresistible mixture of realism and charm. It is simply a joy to read. Written in the voice of Bridget, a young girl caught between visions of Satan and sanctity, bewitched in a Catholic school that enforces ideals of the holy family and a home filled with lively, arguing relatives, it is captivating in its mixture of humor and grit. Bridget makes her way through Irish, Italian and religious patriarchies with the heart and mind of a gifted observer looking for her own form of grace. McCormick has written a brilliant work, filled with all the astonishment, allure and pitfalls of ethnic life today.
—Josephine Gattuso Hendin, author of Vulnerable People: A View of American Fiction Since 1945, Heart Breakers: Women and Violence in Contemporary Culture and Literature and The Right Thing To Do
A coming of age feminist consciousness story that navigates gender in the contexts of domestic and celestial hierarchies. In Bridget’s world, frightening and glorious relationships exist between phosphorous and holiness, virgins and bicycles, crucifixes and spices, exorcism and mascara. Zamboni-McCormick renders scenes that run the gamut from laugh-out-loud Catholic brainwashing of children, to heart-wrenched witnessing of domestic violence, to riveting teenage excursions toward sex.
—Annie Rachele Lanzillotto, author of L is for Lion: an italian bronx butch freedom memoir
Dodging Satan is a deeply perceptive and slyly voiced novel about the perils of overcoming both pride and humility through the comical harrowing of an Irish-Italian Catholic family.
—George Guida, author of The Pope Stories and Other Tales of Troubled Times
Dodging Satan by Kathleen McCormick is a unique coming of age story about a girl who has to deal with an Irish side and an Italian side of her family. The two sides clash on a regular basis over any number of topics, but are both so deeply religious that they can't help but having a happy middle ground. Kathleen deals with many different issues as a catholic school girl. Some are common for girls her age, such as maturity, a wild imagination that manifests itself in the form of re-tellings of biblical stories, and puberty. However, others are much more individual such as when she was forbidden for talking about her uncles in class because her family believed they survived World War 2 because they were wearing their crucifixes. Some of the highlights of the autobiography are when Kathleen believes that God must live in her Dad's shoes because his feet kept him out of the war, or that Satan moved into her room once she had to start sleeping in a double bed instead of a crib, or the many different things her mother would say that covered domestic abuse from her young child. While the majority of the story is written in a humorous manner, there is an undertone at times that leaves the reader feeling bad for this young girl and what she had to go through. Writing with both humor and sadness successfully are both attributes that prove you have found a good writer. Nice job Kathleen.
The story follows the growing up of a young catholic girl – born of an Italian mother to an Irish father, she seems to struggle with the worst aspects of both cultures. The book is very well-written and draws you into Bridget’s world, which is utterly dominated by Catholicism. If she works hard and gains good results at school, she is chided for the sin of pride; if she underachieves she is wasting her God-given talents! As a teacher, I was horrified by the constant undermining that she suffered at the hands of her teachers. We are supposed to instil confidence and encourage young minds – the education Bridget receives is farcical.
The humour in the story comes from Bridget’s attempts to understand the bible; a case in point is her opinion that God was fed up with Eve because she rejected his advances and thus was expelled from the Garden of Eden. Underlying the humour are stories of marital violence played out daily among Bridget’s relations. Women are supposed to put up with the punishment meted out by drunken bullies. The story ends with Bridget affirming that she will not go down this route – feminism has raised its head by this point and she will become a modern woman, educated and strong.
Hilarious and sad, but a great book to read
There is someone hilarious and sad wrapped up in the one story of Dodging Satan. There is the hilarity of Bridget's innocent perspective of her faith in the points of view of her Irish and Italian family. How she believes God is glowing his spirit through her crucifix as well as her father's slippers. Or her indulgence prayer math she does to stay out of trouble during sermons. There is also her fear of Satan and her night terrors and her parents' daily arguments that are loud enough for the neighborhood to hear. It's her coming of age about her heritage, her friends, and her faith and how they all come together to make her unique. I love how she describes her way of thinking about Catholicism, women's lib, and growing up in the 60s and 70s. There are some heartbreaking moments shared, but there are also touching moments that have shaped her just as much. I chuckled in every chapter about something crazy, whether it was something a family member did or the words she used to describe it. "Relicky goodness" is definitely not a phrase you hear every day.