James D. and Evelyn Eaton WHITEHEAD. Nourishing the Spirit: The Healing Emotions of Wonder, Joy, Compassion, and Hope. Maryknoll NY: Orbis Books, 2012. pp. 181. $22.00 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-001-3.
Reviewed by James T. BRETZKE, S.J., Boston College School of Theology & Ministry, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

Evelyn and James Whitehead are well-known to Catholic readers of a certain generation and the husband-wife team lecture widely and have authored numerous books on combinations of theology, psychology, spirituality and relationships. This latest book picks up many of the themes from a positive angle that had been introduced in their 2010 book (also by Orbis) Transforming Our Painful Emotions: Spiritual Resources in Anger, Shame, Grief, Fear and Loneliness.

The approach the authors utilize is something akin to a well-stocked buffet bringing forward quite an array of insights and short quotes from a variety of authors that illustrate the development of their basic theme. The book’s fifteen short chapters are divided into three equal parts: 1) Moral Emotions; 2) Healing Emotions; and 3) Religious Emotions.

It is somewhat difficult to capsulize the authors’ thesis and its development as it seems both the book’s genius as well its principal frustration is the lack of sustained development with the myriad sources brought to bear on the topic. Many pages have as many as five or six other authors referenced and virtually every page has at least one or two new contributions introduced. Personally I would have welcomed more of the Whiteheads’ own sustained development, even if that would mean bringing in far fewer other sources. However, this certainly is a matter of individual taste and the current book is somewhat like a many-faceted crystal that is held up and turned in the light so that we can grasp different hues and shapes as we peruse the text.

I would recommend the book primarily as a form of spiritual reading on the topic, or perhaps as a quick overview of what a good number of people are writing that can be brought to bear on the topic of healing emotions.


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