Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Called out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession is a 2008 memoir by novelist Anne Rice, who is best known for her Vampire Chronicles (most notably Interview with the Vampire). This book deals only peripherally with her novels; as the title suggests, it’s about Rice’s spiritual journey.

Rice grew up in New Orleans, immersed in Catholicism. She describes her faith at this time as strong and deep, yet simple (the archetype of what we think of as “childlike faith”). In college, Rice was exposed to secular humanism for the first time. She rejected the Church (and with it, God; one can be rejected independently of the other, which Rice notes, but at the time she threw it all out) and became an atheist. After thirty-eight years as an atheist, she acknowledged that God had been drawing her, and came back to faith. Rice has since given up writing vampire novels and is in the midst of a series on the life of Christ.

What makes Called out of Darkness compelling is Rice’s openness, and the very personal tone she uses. She describes in detail the pull that she felt from God (she repeatedly quotes Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven”). She goes on at length about what her faith means to her, and how she came to appreciate Scripture.

Clearly, Rice understands what it means to be a Christian. She appreciates that it is difficult – that living out faith as a Christian is more challenging than leaving religion alone. She understands that faith is not a magic bullet for the problems of the world.

Writing this book was obviously cathartic for Rice. It is hesitating, almost rambling at times, like she was compelled to pour out everything she knows and feels. A large portion of Called out of Darkness deals with Rice’s Catholic childhood, and she describes this world with immersive, vivid detail, which is sometimes good and sometimes makes the book drag. Rice relives these moments with the reader. All of this enables Rice to come across as genuine and sincere about everything – her initial faith, her atheism, and her return to God.

It is interesting to trace the parallels between Rice’s novels and her life. Rice herself touches on this. Rice’s vampire characters were so androgynous because Rice was raised without cultural and social restrictions on gender. Rice’s vampire novels were bleak and hopeless and dealt heavily with spirituality and theology because Rice herself was an atheist looking for spiritual truth through her writing. And so forth.

Rice is still feeling out the world of new Catholicism and her place in Christianity. Her doctrine isn’t always right, and some of her suggestions on making the Church more progressive are way off base. But at this point, the reader should not hold that against her.

All in all, Called out of Darkness is a worthwhile account of a return to faith by someone with a rather unique perspective.