The Englewood Review of Books
Best Books of 2018
Advent / Christmas Calendar
Hardback: Paraclete Press, 2018
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Vanier felt God calling him into more intimate community with people with disabilities. In Trosly-Breuil, he founded L’Arche (meaning “The Ark”), a house where people with and without disabilities could live together in support and solidarity. The organization is now a worldwide movement, with more than 150 houses and 5,000 members. The purpose of L’Arche, writes Vanier, is to say to people who are frequently rejected, marginalized, dismissed, and abused because of their disability, “I am glad you exist. I am happy to live with you.”
We Need Each Other is comprised of lectures Vanier originally gave in Nyahururu, in central Kenya, in 2008. The compiled book is short, barely 140 small pages. The writing is simple, direct, and gentle. But like Vanier’s other little books—From Brokenness to Community (52 pages) is one of my all-time favorites— We Need Each Other is a treasure. More so than some of his other books, Vanier introduces us to some of the disabled L’Arche residents who, for decades, have been his friends and teachers.
There is Janine, who came to live at L’Arche when she was forty. She had epilepsy, was partially paralyzed, and was a hemophiliac. Janine was full of violence and rage, and she would sometimes break things and scream. “When someone is violent in our community, we try to understand why,” writes Vanier. “We do not try to stop the violence first, but instead, we sit down with the person and ask, ‘Tell me, where is your pain?’” Janine’s pain came from feeling unwanted by her family and from not being able to bear children. In time, Janine found her voice.
- from John Pattison’s review of this book
in our Fall 2018 magazine issue
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