Click here to read reviewer Br. Benet Exton's take on Called Out of Darkness.
Bestselling author Anne Rice pens an extraordinary memoir with vivid scenery that captivates the reader and serves as the backdrop to her personal tale of spiritual transformation in Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession.
Typically associated with a stigma as the Vampire Queen, given her multiple novels about vampires, Rice buries her atheist ties and proclaims herself a “Catholic”. Pivotal moments in Anne’s life redefine fervor for Catholicism and belief in God. This read serves as a private testimony to reclaim childhood roots with inbred Christian viewpoints and to share current religious conviction; an Irish Catholic family who lived and breathed the Church in New Orleans with daily masses, dedications to saints and ritual prayers.
In this enthralling, page-turning read, I found myself identifying with Rice’s childhood devotion to God, then a pause in service; hers just lasted longer than mine, over twenty years. As an avid reader of Rice’s previous publications in the inspirational genre, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, in which colorful descriptions place the reader alongside the experiences of Christ, I was curious: How does a person spit out pain as a new beginning for the world to witness? After all, Rice’s desertion of God must have left her in the midst of darkness, yet God never abandoned Anne - He pursued her, time and time again, to come back to Him.
Clearly evident in the beginning of the book is a somewhat bizarre childhood, with a mother obsessed with God yet unable to control her own compulsion to drink, and explicit details of church settings, rituals, and saints. As a young girl, her obscure moniker - Howard Allen - presented an identity crisis; a masculine name that bore no feeling, no sense of gender, perpetuated by a feeling of not fitting in as a child, except when in the presence of God. Anne’s mother died when she was a freshman in high school as a result of her drinking. Her father remarried quickly to a Baptist and relocated the family to Texas.
During the first year of college, Rice completely abandoned the practice of religion and clearly became an atheist, as well as marrying an atheist. She did not attend church or pray in any formal fashion. She says,
“My upbringing condemned me to be Catholic forever, my heart and conscience were telling me to leave the church and explore. My faith began to crack apart. I stopped going to Church, being Catholic. I quit for 38 yrs.”
Unmistakable in this memoir, is the subtle fact that God tugged at Anne’s heart as she walked life’s path, despite her determination to throw away religious practice. Evidence includes Rice’s fascination with religious locations as the backdrop to “The Vampire Chronicles” she penned. Travel was dominated by visits to the Holy Land, the Passion of Christ, the Garden where Christ was thought to contemplate prayer, the Cave in which God spoke to Saint Francis of Assisi in Italy - places I have visited and been moved to reaffirm my own faith in God. An obsession with collecting religious artifacts, acquiring holy statues, purchasing the house associated with the Parrish of Redemptive Priest which she frequented as a child; Anne was determined to acquire them all, despite a lack of belief in God.
A crucial moment in Anne’s spiritual conversion occurred in Brazil, on Corcovado Mountain above Rio de Janeiro, where a statue of Jesus overlooks the city, his arms outstretched. Anne speaks of the incident, “This moment was beyond rational description, a sense that God took hold of me…I became convinced that I was being pursued by the Lord, over the next few years.”
In 1998, Anne slipped into a diabetic coma, unconscious while doctors tried to save her life. After surviving the crisis, Anne surrendered to God’s will and reclaimed faith.
Another essential moment convinced Rice to write spiritual books to honor God on December 6, 1998. God spoke to Anne’s heart as she sat in a church pew and said “Write for God. Write for Him. Write only for Him.”
Within weeks of deciding to write for God, Anne’s husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died 4 ½ months later. This event could have shaken Anne’s faith and forced her to abandon the idea of writing for God, but her determination only increased. Shortly thereafter, Rice closed “The Vampire Chronicles” forever. Rice now believes that “My vocation is to write from Jesus, He is as immediate me as He was thousand years ago.”
What makes this book unique? The devil is in the details of the book. Rice writes with candor and passion to share a story of personal conversion that will resonate with the reader. It is an act of courage to admit personal struggles, to accept that which one resists: the presence of God in life and to be valorous on the road ahead.