What's life all about?

An archbishop, facing death, makes an honest and painful quest for the meaning of freedom, love and power.


Dave Wood Syndicated book reviewer, as appeared in the
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
November 2, 2003

On the regional front, we have a new offering from Durand native Boehrer, author of the novels "Unless A Grain of Wheat" and "Dead Men's Bones."

Boehrer's new book, "Called to Freedom," is set first in Rome and then in the southeastern Wisconsin town of Plum, where a Vatican archbishop, Frederick Patrick Sweeney, goes to die after contracting Lou Gehrig's disease.

Does this remind you of anyone? How about J.F. Powers? How about Jon Hassler? Irony of irony, Hassler once wrote a novel simply titled "Plum," but his publisher insisted on renaming it "Grand Opening."

Similarities don't end there. Boehrer, like Powers and Hassler, is adept at criticizing Roman Catholic bureaucracy, which gets in the way of spirituality.

It's a long way from the grandeur that was - and is - Rome, and Sweeney jumps right in and meets an interesting and interestingly named cast of characters.

There's Dumpster Heap, the town constable; Temple Swift, editor of the Plum Predicate; and representative preachers from several denominations.

Debates among the principals rage, friendships are made, and all the while the bishop from Rome grows in his understanding of religion and humanity.

Boehrer, a former priest (who lived and studied in Rome), punctuates his narrative with occasional journal entries made by the ailing Sweeney, which take the reader by the hand from time to time to drive home a point.

This is an altogether charming and believable book that makes the reader examine priorities in the area of faith.

Dave Wood is a past vice president of the National Book Critics Circle
and former book review editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
E-mail him at

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