Bookmarks Issue: 

The Man Who Saved My Faith

A-FatherJoeBest known as the band manager in This Is Spinal Tap and as editor of National Lampoon and Spy magazine, Tony Hendra isn’t someone you’d expect to write a spiritual memoir. But that’s what the English satirist has done with Father Joe. The book chronicles Hendra’s 40-year-plus friendship with Dom Joseph Warrilow, an English Benedictine Monk who spent the majority of his life in a monastery on the Isle of Wight. Hendra, by contrast, spent the majority of his life pursuing humor, fame, sex, and drugs. Yet, through it all, the author repeatedly returns to the wisdom and lessons he learned from the gentle and saintly Father Joe.

In the News: On July 1, 2004, The New York Times published an in-depth look at Hendra’s daughter Jessica’s allegations that Hendra molested her three times when she was a young girl. Some of her memories were "recovered" under hypnosis, though a long-time friend confirms Jessica had discussed these events when she was a teenager. The author denies the allegations.
Random House. 271 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 1400061849

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"This complex memoir—think equal parts Tuesdays With Morrie, Aerosmith: Behind the Music and St. John of the Cross—tells the (mostly chronological) tale of how Hendra … discovers his faith as a 14-year-old boy, loses it, and finds it again as a middle-aged semi-celebrity, all with help of Dom Joseph Warrilow. … Hendra skirts the shallow waters of sentimentality without stepping in with both feet, revealing a confessional that rings true rather than canned." Cathleen Falsani

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"Some may find Hendra’s occasional irreverence and vulgarity offensive. … Father Joe is a colorful memoir about two lives—a saintly priest and an ego-driven comedian who gained a measure of self-awareness, humility, and faith under the priest’s wise tutelage." Bill Williams

NY Times Book Review 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This extraordinary, luminescent, profound book shows us something wonderfully unexpected and deeply true. … This book is about Hendra’s slow, aching, hilarious but profound attempt to accept God’s unconditional love for him." Andrew Sullivan

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"…a worldly-wise and heavenly book. … Father Joe is the kind of work you’ll return to again and again just for the sheer joy of good writing." David Reinhard

Philadelphia Inquirer 4 of 5 Stars
"Hendra’s book is so funny at times that you wonder if you’ll ever get through it for laughing. At other times, it truly brings a lump to the throat and a tear to the eye." Frank Wilson

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Don’t expect anything remotely funny from this book .… It is a book for men who think of themselves as trapped, misunderstood geniuses, so it should sell well." Carolyn See

Critical Summary

"How I met Father Joe: I was fourteen and having an affair with a married woman." Thus opens Father Joe, a poignant, profound, and insightful memoir that surprised many critics. "How did a man known for left-wing screeds and biting satire come to write a book that … belongs in the first tier of spiritual memoirs ever written?" asked The New York Times. Reviews praised Hendra’s honest and moving portrayal of a lifetime of "secular success and spiritual failure" and account of how Father Joe helped ground him throughout the years (Chicago Sun-Times). The memoir also provides an insider’s look at the comedic National Lampoon, Spy magazine, and Monty Python. The only dissenting voice came from the Washington Post, which saw Hendra as an inauthentic victim. Otherwise, Father Joe moved reviewers as much as the book’s memorable namesake moved Hendra.