Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The End of Hope-The Beginning: Narratives of Hope in the Face of Death and Trauma

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

The End of Hope-The Beginning: Narratives of Hope in the Face of Death and Trauma

Article excerpt

The End of Hope-The Beginning: Narratives of Hope in the Face of Death and Trauma. By Pamela R. McCarroll. Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2014. viii + 150 pp. $29.00 (paper).

In spite of its constant use in sermons and pastoral care, the Christian concept of hope is not easily defined, much less practiced in the midst of human misery and death. In The End of Hope-The Beginning: Narratives of Hope in the Face of Death and Trauma, Pamela McCarroll skillfully draws on a wide range of theologians, health care workers, and poets who dare to think about hope in situations that seem hopeless.

Throughout the book, McCarroll draws on her extensive experience in hospitals and clinics where one cannot be removed from the real suffering of human existence. The End of Hope-The Beginning will appeal to theologians who are tracing the changing definition of hope in a postmodern world, as well as clergy who are tracing the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the dying. Clinical Pastoral Education students will find much to wrestle with in this book, as will laypersons facing trauma and death in their own lives.

The End of Hope-The Beginning is packed with emotionally engaging stories and solid historical scholarship that refuses to promote a simplistic definition of hope. Hope, for McCarroll, is always rooted in real life situations, especially when life seems hopeless. While she ably conceals the identities of her examples, it is clear she has cared for each of them during their time of crisis. For example, McCarroll describes a Canadian pastor in his thirties, diagnosed with ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrigs disease. A diagnosis of ALS guarantees death in five years. The patients muscles slowly break down so that the patient usually dies of asphyxiation. Any definition of hope, for McCarroll, must be useful in a situation like this.

Thankfully, she masterfully describes how hope functions even when death is near at hand. She does this by teasing out five different facets of hope, with a chapter devoted to each. For example, "Hope as Fight" explores how humans grow through struggle, while "Hope as Meaning" and "Hope as Lament" present the limits and possibilities of the existential approach to human tragedy that can produce hope. …

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