An Interview with the unforgettable Dorothy Cummings McLean

photoPolitics, glamour, romance, terrorists, and a couple of Catholics trying to live their lives in a world that’s gone crazy? Dorothy Cummings McLean’s first novel, Ceremony of Innocence, has it all. This action packed novel takes place in Germany, 2008, and engages the politics of the day while hopping in and out of night clubs with the young and beautiful “Butterfly set.” It meets sweeping theological themes outside of the realm of abstract theology and grounds them in the all too real concerns of an ordinary woman living in extraordinary times – ours. The story is told in the voice of a foreign journalist: a conflicted Catholic with a handsome, younger, live-in (ex)boyfriend, and gorgeous hair. 

Ceremony of Innocence is not your average Christian Novel so it makes sense that when I got the chance to interview its author it wasn’t your average interview. I met Dorothy Cummings McLean – TST alumni and the author of Seraphic Singles – at the AGO where she was planning on spending the day. McLean was born in Toronto not far from the Art Gallery and her identity as a Canadian runs through her novel. We had breakfast at Karine’s (a place any downtown Torontonian should know) and chatted over massive plates of eggs and fruit like old friends. McLean is a captivating conversationalist which isn’t surprising given the dialogue in her book.

During the interview we covered everything from:

1) Influential authors: Graham Greene, Gordan Korman, and how we are taught to write by what we read.

2) Life overseas: culture shock and the unique perspective of a foreigner. Dorothy Cummings McLean is currently living in Scotland but also lived in Germany as a student. interestingly she relies heavily on this experience, even consulting her journals from her time in Germany, while setting the scene in Ceremony of Innocence.

3) The political shifts that have lead to wide spread cultural disenfranchisement the world over: “as if the certainties of their existence has been swept away.”

4) Her first book, Seraphic Singles, and how it has recently been translated into Polish. She will be leading workshops around singleness in Polish in the upcoming months.

5) Scottish Country dancing and the danger of flying into framed pictures of John Paul II if the reels get a little too enthusiastic.

to my favourite:

6) The fact that “even German’s cry when they have to read Rahner in German”

McLean’s action packed novel deals with some very controversial themes but her main hope – “Super old-fashioned and cranky” (her words not mine) as it may sound – is that her readers will come away with a deep sense of sin. For McLean, “remorse comes before the return of the soul to a state of grace,” and this reality permeates the pages of her novel. McLean unapologetically faces big issues head on which makes Ceremony of Innocence definitely worth reading.

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