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Dorothy Day; The World Will Be Saved By Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of Dorothy Day

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  753 ratings  ·  147 reviews
The life and work of Dorothy Day—the iconic, celebrated, and controversial Catholic whom Pope Francis called a “great American”—told with illuminating detail by her granddaughter.

Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a prominent Catholic, writer, social activist, and co-founder of a movement dedicated to serving the poorest of the poor. Her life has been revealed through her own wri
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Scribner
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Kerry Egan I would start with The Long Loneliness. Let Dorothy Day tell you herself who she is first, you know? And it's a marvel of a book. The kind of book tha…moreI would start with The Long Loneliness. Let Dorothy Day tell you herself who she is first, you know? And it's a marvel of a book. The kind of book that took my breath away. (less)

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Kressel Housman
Even though I’m an Orthodox Jew, I have a deep connection to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement. I volunteered at one of her “hospitality centers” a/k/a homeless shelters when I was in high school, and it was there that I was given the name of the man who would eventually become my first rabbi, Reb Shlomo Carlebach. I was also offered the chance to live there as a volunteer, but I did the conventional thing and went to college instead. What a mistake! I might have lived the life of spiritual ...more
Donna Davis
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with insatiable curiosity
Dorothy Day is an interesting historical figure, the woman that founded The Catholic Worker, which was initially a combined newspaper, homeless shelter, and soup kitchen. I once subscribed to The Catholic Worker, and since it cost one penny per issue, you couldn’t beat the price. I saw this biography available and snapped it up from Net Galley; thanks go to them and Scribner, who provided me with a DRC in exchange for an honest review. This title was published in late January and is now availabl ...more
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an insider biography of Dorothy Day, a relational memoir of the mother-daughter relationship between the activist Day and her only living child, Tamar. Kate Hennessey, Day’s youngest granddaughter, explores the legacy of Day, not as the 20th century prophet, the social activist, the prolific writer who gave life to numerous communities of radical Gospel hospitality, simplicity and prayer, but as the single mother of a daughter who she never understood and often left feeling neglected, be ...more
Berni Phillips
Nov 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religious
This biography of Dorothy Day was written by her youngest granddaughter, and I think it is as much a biography of Day's daughter, Tamar, as it is of the famous mother.

Dorothy Day was an American icon, foundress of the Catholic Worker movement (and newspaper) which opened houses of hospitality during the Great Depression, taking in all the poor and unwanted, feeding them, providing them shelter, and taking care of them as far was possible. She was a pacifist, arrested in various marches and for r
Jan 28, 2017 rated it did not like it
A dreary book. The writing is dry and often stilted. Stories come across like a soda gone flat -- I can imagine they would have been more interesting had the writing been better.

The author is, perhaps, too close to her subject to give a good account. To my taste, she spends waaaay too much time discussing her mother (Day's daughter) and father, not to mention her own life.

I appreciate getting a perspective of Day that is human, not hagiographical, but I have rarely read a more tedious book.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was an unexpected delight. I found myself profoundly moved by the relationships between Dorothy and the people in her life whom she loved.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Slow start, and not exactly what it appears to be. It is much more an author trying to come to terms with and understand her grandmother, mother, and herself. It's not as much a biography of Day as it is an attempt to understand the generations of women in their family. Still, a good read and interesting as I didn't know much about the Catholic Workers Movement. ...more
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
In addition to this being a biography of Dorothy Day, it is also a story of a woman coming to terms with her family history. I think the story could have been better organized and more tightly told, but nevertheless it is a story worth entering into. I'm glad I stuck with it to the end. ...more
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Dorothy Day is a fascinating person, and her story was very different than I would have guessed from the vague cultural sense I've picked up about the Catholic Worker movement. This book is written by her granddaughter, so it's a more personal version and focuses on Dorothy's difficult relationship with her only child Tamar. (Imagine growing up in a series of poverty-and politics-infused Catholic Worker houses and farmsteads with a mother many would call a Saint.)

It was interesting to read now
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: buy
Beautiful insights into Dorothy's conversion; the struggle of being human and trying to respond to the Divine. Her relationship with Forster during and after her conversion is particularly human. The book also offers insights into the Catholic Worker movement and all the complexities of trying to love and minister to the poor. The major focus though is how Dorothy lived that reality while also being a mother and grandmother, and how her humanity impacted them and their relationship to the Church ...more
Oct 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve always admired Dorothy Day, not just for founding the Catholic Worker movement, but also for her imperfections. She seems to me so human. Kate Hennessy, her granddaughter, has written an intimate portrait of her grandmother.
(Note: I received pre-publication access through Edelweiss.)
Victor Smith
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
In the interest of full disclosure, I mention that I am the son of a couple depicted in this book, who first were followers of Dorothy Day but later part of the group that broke away from her Catholic Worker movement. My parents did then continue to live on a back-to-the-land farm community generally based on CW principles. Thus, as one of a family of ten children, Dorothy Day’s story and work was a background component very much a part of our upbringing.
But this review is not about my story, b
Susan Oleksiw
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Dorothy Day seems to have fallen into her future fame and success accidentally. After what she called a "disorderly" life lived in Bohemian New York, where she knew Eugene O'Neill and many others of stature, Day moved about the country as a journalist until she returned to New York and started the newspaper Catholic Worker with a friend. Meant to replace other failed newspapers of similar philosophical leanings, the CW was an overnight sensation, bringing in funds undreamed of. But this success ...more
McKenzie Watson-Fore
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I tore through this book.
Dorothy Day has long been a source of inspiration for me, despite my superficial and factually sporadic acquaintance with her life and work. I knew of her as the founder of the Catholic Worker and committed to living out the acts of mercy. My freshman year of college I read a single column of hers on assignment for a course with my favorite philosophy professor in which she referenced the idea of ‘round table discussions’: that they are so pleasant and edifying, and we s
Dec 14, 2017 rated it liked it
The beginning of this book was slow and vague. I understand why the author wanted to include information about her grandmother's early life, but she was a couple of generations removed from it, and most of the information is already available elsewhere. Because there are no footnotes, we don't know where the author got the information and how accurate it it.

Once the story gets to the point where Tamar, the author's mother, is born, it gets a lot more interesting, probably because they author wa
BJ  Brown
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The Catholic Worker I knew in the the early 1980s ranged from crazy and unthinking to generous hospitality. I remember reading a pamphlet of Peter Maurin's Easy Essays, but I'm no longer sure all of what I've read by or about Dorothy Day: certainly some newspaper columns, and Loves and Fishes and probably the Long Loneliness and William Miller's biography. I know I attended an evening or two for clarification of thought at either Joseph or Mary House on the Lower East Side, and that at Day's mem ...more
Elyse Hayes
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished this wonderful book. Beautifully written. Not solely a biography of Dorothy. Because it is written by a family member, it gives you insight into the whole, messy extended family of Dorothy Day and the messiness of the Catholic Worker communities. Written with a generous heart, Kate Hennessy valiantly tries to let us know who the unknowable Dorothy Day was - and who Kate's mother, Tamar was. She kept trying over many years to get Tamar to share herself, but it was difficult. Nevertheless ...more
Oct 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I don’t even remember from whence I got the recommendation and bought it on a whim, though it was weeks or maybe months ago. I had only heard of Dorothy Day in passing and had never heard of the Catholic Worker. This is a beautiful, at times heartbreaking, love story - Tamar’s Love for Dorothy, Dorothy’s Love for the Church, and Kate’s Love for them both. It was a fascinating look at a life lived big, a woman who spoke and acted on her bel ...more
Mary Helene
Apr 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
Eloquently written. Engaging. Excellent. And yet, having just finished it, a sense of sadness comes over me. I knew Dorothy Day only from her writing and her witness which shaped my life and my decisions. It was like seeing a beautiful piece of needlework, an intricate and inspiring view of the world and our call to love in the most tangible of ways. This book is the flip side of the stitching. We see the knots and the crossed threads. It was hard to read emotionally for that reason.
Richard Corbett
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Truly beautifully written filled with love and honesty, with a clarity that is rich and full with depth. There has been many fine books written by and about Dorothy Day, and this one is a true added treasure. I am sure Hennessy did not know when she wrote this, that it is a book that should be read now more then ever to remember beauty and love even though it maybe hard at times.
May 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
I never knew who Dorothy Day was and from what I read in this book she never seemed like a woman I wanted to know more about. The book was written by her granddaughter and it was totally disorganized and filled with too many random details. This seemed more like a private collection of remembrances for a family then a published book.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Unfortunately the lack of organization, confusing flow of the book made for a tedious read at times. However, the personal and intimate details and anecdotes added to the charm of this method of telling Dorothy’s story. Perhaps if she had more structure and consistency, I would have enjoyed it more.
Janice Falvey
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written by Dorothy Day's granddaughter. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 marked it as to-read
I'm adding to by list because of an NPR Fresh Air broadcast/interview I heard part of ...more
Michael Quillin
May 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, but less about DD and more about family, esp. daughter (it's written by granddaughter). Not any insight into the faith life or motivation of DD. ...more
Claire Lucas
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Kate Hennessy reminded me that people who are most beautiful and holy are also often the most complex. Her honest stories of her grandmother are frank, heartfelt and yet gentle.
Mar 16, 2019 marked it as did-not-finish
DNF page 201. Too overdue too long
Too much emoting, not nearly enough detail of the later years of Dorothy’s life, and the author lost sight of her subject far too often as she gazed in repetitive navel-gazing and a lot of projection. It’s an interesting enough take on the early years of the Dorothy’s social activism but it deteriorates once the focus shifts to Dorothy’s daughter. This is really a vehicle for the author to work out her own issues.
Cecilia Hendricks
Feb 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
A fascinating view into the private world of one of the more controversial figures in modern Catholicism; I enjoyed seeing Dorothy through her family’s eyes. It left me with many things to ponder about Dorothy, Christianity, and myself. It’s a unique way to view a possible Saint but I found it both compelling and educational. I highly recommend it.
Jul 02, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed learning about this amazing woman. In general tho I felt like the author wandered and repeated much of what she had already said.
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