A Brief Review of
A Long Walk with Mary: A Personal Search for the Mother of God
Brandi Willis Schreiber
Reviewed by John Tuttle
The words are touching, raw, and eloquent in Brandi Willis Schreiber’s memoir A Long Walk with Mary. The book follows the author’s personal faith journey over the span of a year. As faith is witnessed and tested in the day-to-day, this memoir looks to its surroundings and how they might provide moments of grace in which Schreiber, and the reader, come to find the divine and grasp a connection with the Virgin Mother of God.
This was an interesting endeavor as I, a Roman Catholic man, undertook to read the personal musings of an Orthodox Christian woman. Much of the theology regarding Mary, who serves always as an indicator and mediator of her divine Son, is shared in common between Roman and Orthodox Catholics.
However, I was (and still am) largely ignorant of the specific devotions and liturgical calendar celebrations of the Orthodox Church. But A Long Walk with Mary introduced me to a few of these, thus broadening ever so slightly my understanding of our brothers and sisters of the Eastern traditions.
The theological gems do not comprise the majority of the book but are, instead, interspersed among observations of the beauty of nature, the joys and fears of a wife and expectant mother, and the discovery of similarities shared with the Virgin Mary.
Set in her home state of Texas, Schreiber’s book takes you on an adventure of faith. Through her eyes, we can relate to her experiences, her anxieties and aspirations. Through it all, Mary seems to be looming protectively, lovingly over her and her family.
The highs and lows, the good days and the bad, are aptly described by Schreiber as “the peaks and valleys of faith.” This strongly evokes the image of faith in Christ as an ongoing journey. This is also her perception while driving out-of-state to a peaceful getaway in the hopes of growing closer to Mary and finding the time to write more thoughtfully.
For a book dealing with the Mother of God, it is not surprising that maternity appears as a recurring theme. After all, the significance of Mary is found in her openness to bearing the God-Child, her intimate relationship with Him, and the virtue with which she met this unique vocation – that is, humility.
It is through humility that we can truly recognize the fidelity of God, His all-powerful being that is always present, though not always perceptible. The author realizes her need for humility, which manifests as a personal acceptance that she is not in control of everything. She can’t help her biological mother if she won’t accept her help, and she can’t do anything about the innumerable and hypothetical complications associated with the beautiful boy growing in her womb. As she found, there is humility to be gained in this feeling of helplessness.
Reading this book, one is confronted, to some degree, with his own sense of helplessness along with the invitation to become humble. During the course of reading the narrative of the memoir, I found it to coincide with intersections in my own life.
I read about the sad event of Grandfather Schreiber’s passing right after hearing of the unexpected death of my own paternal grandfather. Bereavement and loss are common elements of this life, and Brandi Schreiber has to confront them just as others have, such as C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed.
We don’t have to write a book to be able to share in the human experience of suffering, but we can find comfort in the fact that even Mary experienced sorrows. Filled with the bittersweet moments of her life, Schreiber’s book shines forth a ray of hope in moving forward with life.
A breeze of a read, as calm and soothing as the wind that blows through the trees the author writes so fondly of, A Long Walk with Mary is worth the hike. It’s a journey worth sharing in.
John Tuttle is a Catholic man with a love for truth and beauty. His writing has appeared in The University Bookman, The Christian Post, An Unexpected Journal, Tablet Magazine, The Millions, and elsewhere.