Reviewed by Sheri Harper
Waiting for the Apocalypse
by Veronica Chater
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
ISBN:978-0-393-06603-6, Hardcover: 336 pages, February 2, 2009
Veronica Chater’s memoir Waiting for the Apocalypse will return many baby boom era Catholics back to the changes in the church brought about by Vatican II. Her perspective is quite original since her parents were devout traditionalist that chose a life on the margins of society in their belief that they could hold on to the centuries old practices the church was dedicated to changing. “Waiting for the Apocalypse” effectively describes the practices that most Catholics embrace.
Her story is rather sad for the most part since the family of nine children and her mother are mostly subject to the fanatical whim of their father who dictates their style of life. What is especially sad is she learns the worst part of religion since it has everything to do with resistance to cultural change and has very little to do with the meaning of God while getting a healthy dose of Satan thrown in.
One of the lovely parts of the story is Veronica’s language—she paints a complex picture of her family, using heavy doses of metaphorical language and lots of questioning about how her life unfolds. She is quite trapped in her lifestyle. She writes much later, looking back and many of the incidences described are all about falling away, falling down, or just not making it. Her brothers and sisters have their own ways of dealing with the same family—most make it away into more mainstream society.
She does a very good job of painting how differences in religious upbringing affect the social life of children in society. What is sad is that her father who is a police officer, college graduate from families of college graduates, can spend their life fighting a losing cause and know it and not every accept change. One of the good things about this story is it is one seldom seen.
Only at the end does the Veronica finally grow old enough to escape her life limitations created by her father’s fanaticism by choosing work rather than school, the school rather than getting married and having many children. What is especially sad is that she was quite passive in her acceptance of her father’s ranting as is everyone in the family and all the people chosen as friends. One wonders why no one ever argues with him. One wonders why he found no satisfaction in American culture in California. I would expect this writer to do more exploration on her own life questions with future writings.
About the reviewer: Sheri Fresonke Harper is a poet and writer. She’s been published in many small journals and is working on her second science fiction novel. See www.sfharper.com