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How Dante Can Save Your Life
Cover of How Dante Can Save Your Life
How Dante Can Save Your Life
The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
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The opening lines of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri launched Rod Dreher on a journey that rescued him from exile and saved his life. Dreher found that the medieval poem offered him a surprisingly practical way of solving modern problems.
Following the death of his little sister and the publication of his New York Times bestselling memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Dreher found himself living in the small community of Starhill, Louisiana where he grew up. But instead of the fellowship he hoped to find, he discovered that fault lines within his family had deepened. Dreher spiraled into depression and a stress-related autoimmune disease. Doctors told Dreher that if he didn’t find inner peace, he would destroy his health. Soon after, he came across The Divine Comedy in a bookstore and was enchanted by its first lines, which seemed to describe his own condition.

In the months that followed Dante helped Dreher understand the mistakes and mistaken beliefs that had torn him down and showed him that he had the power to change his life. Dreher knows firsthand the solace and strength that can be found in Dante’s great work, and distills its wisdom for those who are lost in the dark wood of depression, struggling with failure (or success), wrestling with a crisis of faith, alienated from their families or communities, or otherwise enduring the sense of exile that is the human condition.

Inspiring, revelatory, and packed with penetrating spiritual, moral, and psychological insights How Dante Can Save Your Life is a book for people, both religious and secular, who find themselves searching for meaning and healing. Dante told his patron that he wrote his poem to bring readers from misery to happiness. It worked for Rod Dreher. Dante saved Rod Dreher’s life—and in this book, Dreher shows you how Dante can save yours.
The opening lines of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri launched Rod Dreher on a journey that rescued him from exile and saved his life. Dreher found that the medieval poem offered him a surprisingly practical way of solving modern problems.
Following the death of his little sister and the publication of his New York Times bestselling memoir The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Dreher found himself living in the small community of Starhill, Louisiana where he grew up. But instead of the fellowship he hoped to find, he discovered that fault lines within his family had deepened. Dreher spiraled into depression and a stress-related autoimmune disease. Doctors told Dreher that if he didn’t find inner peace, he would destroy his health. Soon after, he came across The Divine Comedy in a bookstore and was enchanted by its first lines, which seemed to describe his own condition.

In the months that followed Dante helped Dreher understand the mistakes and mistaken beliefs that had torn him down and showed him that he had the power to change his life. Dreher knows firsthand the solace and strength that can be found in Dante’s great work, and distills its wisdom for those who are lost in the dark wood of depression, struggling with failure (or success), wrestling with a crisis of faith, alienated from their families or communities, or otherwise enduring the sense of exile that is the human condition.

Inspiring, revelatory, and packed with penetrating spiritual, moral, and psychological insights How Dante Can Save Your Life is a book for people, both religious and secular, who find themselves searching for meaning and healing. Dante told his patron that he wrote his poem to bring readers from misery to happiness. It worked for Rod Dreher. Dante saved Rod Dreher’s life—and in this book, Dreher shows you how Dante can save yours.
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  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 30, 2015
    After Dreher's sister's untimely death, Dreher (The Little Way of Ruthie Leming) returns with his wife and children to live in the Louisiana parish where he was born. He hopes to reconnect with his family, but they regard him as different and arrogant. Grieving and frustrated that his family won't accept him, Dreher is nearly overcome by a stress-exacerbated illness. Reading Dante's Divine Comedy sets him on a path to healing, and he decides that to seek ultimate satisfaction in anything but God is to pursue a fool's errand. Though the writing is often beautiful and sometimes wise, the book doesn't live up to the virtues it extols. Each chapter ends with a how-to box of occasionally anodyne self-help advice (“Find the dragons hiding , slay them, and bring back the treasure that will help you live well"). Such platitudes undermine Dreher's insistence that narratives, particularly Dante's, are uniquely life-changing. It's clear that reading Dante—and getting some good counseling—helped Dreher overcome despair and learn the meaning of love and forgiveness, but his personal solution is far from universally applicable. Agent: Gary Morris, David Black Agency.

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2015
    American Conservative senior editor Dreher (The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life, 2013) shares his search for his family's acceptance, looking for answers from his church, his therapist, and Dante's Divine Comedy.The author likens his decision to return with his wife and children to his home in the Louisiana parish of West Feliciana as the return of a prodigal son. Reading Dante, canto by canto, helped him find the way to reconnect. He never took to his father's traditions of hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities; the author was bookish and lived in his own world. He left for a career in journalism far from home-New York, Texas, Washington, D.C.-but the visits home, short and cool, are his real story. His conversion to Catholicism and eventually Orthodox Christianity expanded the gulf ("the family has always been Methodist"). Dreher mostly avoids preaching or navel-gazing, but he seems to be butting his head against a wall trying to get his family to change. His description of the death of his sister is poignant, and that event prompted him and his wife to return home to help her children. Though their help was not wanted, it was accepted begrudgingly. His descriptions of Southerners' deep attachment to the land and family are enlightening, and the author allows readers to see how his family felt he had forsaken them. The stress of homecoming caused chronic illness, and this book is his fight for resolution. A serendipitous selection of Dante in the bookshop and sessions with his therapist and priest began his reconciliation. As a well-written chronicle of choice between the "success" of big cities and life in the far simpler world of old traditions and deep family ties, the book is both heartwarming and frustrating-certainly more confessional memoir than guide to Dante (a fact the author readily admits).

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How Dante Can Save Your Life
How Dante Can Save Your Life
The Life-Changing Wisdom of History's Greatest Poem
Rod Dreher
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