Book Review: Super Girls and Halos


This review was supposed to be published yesterday, but my toddler was being particularly difficult for a better part of the day, so here it is now. 

I have never officially been given a book to review, though I have definitely shared my "reviews" on books many a time.  When the opportunity arose (thanks to Ave Maria Press!) to review Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue, I took it, not knowing how awesome it would be.

Written by Maria Morera Johnson, Super Girls is unlike any other book I have read or seen out there on the market.  I was intrigued by the title and curious to see how the book would unfold, especially as she begins her introduction with a quote from Edna Mode from The Incredibles.  Johnson takes a handful of secular female heroes, and pairs them with a handful of female saints, all the while focusing on the four cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude, and temperance).  She has not chosen at random though, no, not any hero or saint would do.  She has chosen those who exemplify these virtues, two heroes and two saints for each virtue.

In each chapter, Johnson shares some personal stories or experiences, and delves into the hero's story.  The hero's history is shared, as well as the reasons we as women in particular are drawn to that particular woman.  She shares moments in which they practice the virtue being discussed, breaking the virtue down again and again, often using the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a reference.  She also uses multiple examples, so that by the time she brings the saint in, the reader is very familiar and knows what to look for.  She shares the life of the saint, the virtue in action, and then shares the similarities and differences between the two heroes by discussing them side by side.  At the end of each virtue's section, she poses some questions for thought and discussion, a perfect way to recap.

I will be honest, I now feel justified for loving certain fictional heroes because NOW I know why I love them particularly.  I was not super familiar with all of the women either fictional or saint, but you do not have to be to claim these women as favorites.  The four fictional women I was particularly excited to read about were Katniss Everdeen, Hermione Granger, Wonder Women, and Black Widow.  They are paired up with saints Mary MacKillop, Marguerite d'Youville, Katharine Drexel, and Mary Magdalene.  I had no clue, nor had it ever been prompted to me, that Black Widow and Mary Magdalene had anything in common other than their unfortunate pasts.  Honestly, if I had to choose, I think the chapter on the two of them was my favorite, especially as the virtue they share in common is prudence.  I have loved Mary Magdalene for years, amazed that she had the courage to take a stand to her past in order to put it behind her.  Black Widow has done similarly.

(I think the main reason I admire Mary's courage is because there are so many times in my life that I have a hard time building up the courage to say no and to let go. Just thought I'd share that.)

What you come to understand over the course of Super Girls is that a good person knows the difference between right and wrong, nothing is relative.  A good person wants to act in such a way, and then acts in that way, no dreaming or talking about doing it.  A good person acts with a developed conscience, most times quietly and under the radar.  A good woman, in fact, embraces who she is, limitations and all,in order to help others.  In the conclusion of the book, Johnson explains this, defining it as Christian heroism, in such beautiful terms.

"We are all called to be Christian heroes in our time.  This idea astonishes us because we are so conditioned to think of heroes as larger-than-life personalities accomplishing dramatic deeds.  We appreciate the grand gestures, but what we don't always realized is that to accept God's will and conform to it is a heroic act.  That acceptance and conforming--that interior habit of striving to avoid sin, imperfections, and the concupiscence of our default failings--is heroic not because of some spectacular visible display, but because it requires spectacular humility: we fail, we seek forgiveness, we try again and again to get it right.  This is Christian heroism." (pages 151-152)

Johnson does not talk at you or act as if we need preaching to, nor does she write as if we are scholars of theology.  She writes in terms we can understand and relate to without any watering (or dumbing down of) down the Catholic Faith.  Her love of literature, film, storytelling, Catholicism, virtue, and the saints is so apparent you just can't help but be enraptured with the book.  This book would be excellent used with women in some sort of theology class and book club hybrid setting.  It would unite women from all walks of life, showing that beauty, truth, and goodness are all to be found in Christian heroism.   How many women will be inspired with renewed love and passion for the holy women and the saints, if not for the Faith entirely?!

I look forward to reading her bestseller, My Badass Book of Saints, at a later date, and I applaud her for writing such a unique and inspiring book.  A book like this is sorely needed, especially as so many of us can name just as many people in pop culture, but fail to come up with a handful of saints.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and sincerely hope that you give or receive this book this upcoming Christmas.

To read more about Maria Morera Johnson, and to read other post along the book's blog tour, check out Allison's interview at Reconciled to You.

To purchase Super Girls and Halos, I've included my Amazon affiliate link.  Thanks for your support! Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue

Oh yes, how about a fabulous giveaway to go along with a fabulous book? You can do one entry or all of them! Do not be deterred. 

Super Girls and Halos Super Giveaway

Have a wonderful Friday!

xoxo, alex