Rod Dreher, How Dante Can Save Your Life: The Life-Changing Wisdom Of History’s Greatest Poem

The Life-Changing Wisdom Of History’s Greatest Poem by the prolific journalist and author Rod Dreher. This book is sort of a sequel to his delightful The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming (reviewed below). Both books tell the story of Dreher leaving his home in rural Louisiana, abandoning small-town life for big-city opportunities, abandoning as well a cohesive family and extended community, shortsightedly, as he comes to believe, leaving behind something profoundly good. He comes to regard his moving away as a huge mistake. And so he and his wife decide to return to his roots in Starhill, Louisiana to start a new life, perhaps to reclaim what was missing in his life in the city.

When they returned, to his surprise, he was struck with severe depression and illness. How could this be? Here he was pursuing an idealized dream, and he gets profoundly depressed, debilitatingly ill. From the depths of genuine despair, he starts a steady, laborious climb out of the mire. He comes to discover his troubles are at the deepest levels spiritual.

This is where Dante enters the picture. Dante wrote his greatest of poems—The Divine Comedy—from the place of physical and spiritual exile from his beloved Florence: “Midway in the journey of our life / I came to myself in a dark wood, / For the straight way was lost.” This was Rod Dreher too, in a “dark wood,” to be sure, having lost clear way forward. And so as Dante works his way through an extraordinary spiritual journey, Dreher accompanies him along the path toward healing and wholeness and eventually the dazzling light of unity with God.

I highly recommend this book. Eccentric and quirky at times, this is the work of a lively imagination, a deep spiritual curiosity, the honest story of a pilgrim on his way to the promise of Christian flourishing. Along the way, we are instructed in how to read—for personal, spiritual guidance—one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written.