The Virgin of Prince Street


The Virgin of Prince Street

Expeditions into Devotion

Sonja Livingston

American Lives Series

184 pages


September 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2019


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2019 Foreword INDIES Award, Gold for Essay

With organized religion becoming increasingly divisive and politicized and Americans abandoning their pews in droves, it’s easy to question aspects of traditional spirituality and devotion. In response to this shifting landscape, Sonja Livingston undertakes a variety of expeditions—from a mobile confessional in Cajun Country to a eucharistic procession in Galway, Ireland, to the Death and Marigolds Parade in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Mass in a county jail on Thanksgiving Day—to better understand devotion in her own life.

The Virgin of Prince Street chronicles her quest, offering an intimate and unusually candid view into Livingston’s relationship with the swiftly changing Catholic Church and into her own changing heart. Ultimately, Livingston’s meditations on quirky rituals and fading traditions thoughtfully and dynamically interrogate traditional elements of sacramental devotion, especially as they relate to concepts of religion, relationships, and the sacred.


Author Bio

Sonja Livingston is an associate professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her essays are widely anthologized and taught in classrooms around the country. She is the award-winning author of Ghostbread, Ladies Night at the Dreamland, and Queen of the Fall (Nebraska, 2015).


“Livingston’s essays are light-hearted, witty, told in a comforting, sisterly voice, someone you can trust, someone who speaks her mind, someone who explores those things lost and found.”—Debbie Hagan, Brevity

"Livingston is to be lauded for documenting an honest journey back home."—Nick Ripatrazone, Plough

"If you think a woman’s quest to find a statue from the church of her childhood wouldn’t be that engaging a mystery, you’d be wrong. In The Virgin of Prince Street: Expeditions into Devotion, Sonja Livingston refuses simple devotion as a motive and keeps digging for the source of religious impulse."—Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, Bookends Review

"Liv­ing­ston's invitation to her expeditions is pitch perfect. She is skilled at laughing at herself, gently poking fun at the tradition that she's returning to with new eyes, and drawing us toward the mystery that ultimately cannot be spoken."—Amy Frykholm, Christian Century

"As Livingston moves through the pews of her memory and her present, the authenticity of her pursuits captivates."—James M. Chesbro, America Magazine

"The Virgin of Prince Street is beautiful in its craft. It is also important enough in its message that any Christian, indeed, any person of faith in the world right now, ought to encounter."—Kristina Marie Darling, Tupelo Quarterly

"In examining the sustained power of a central icon of the Catholic church and an object of personal, sentimental attachment, Livingston’s linked essays highlight the irresolvable paradox of modern religiosity—that the seeker must follow an uncharted middle pathway when the old texts and their tropes, their patriarchy and their strictures, necessarily fall away."—Elizabeth Kadetsky, Literary Hub

“In these lyrical sojourns Sonja Livingston contemplates the riches of the Catholic tradition along with its ongoing tribulations. In doing so the essayist discovers that devotion in imperfect circumstances is, in fact, the only devotion ever possible and has the extraordinary capacity to transform the human heart. Livingston’s essays illuminate while infusing nuance and generosity into an increasingly polarized religious landscape.”—Richard Rohr, author of Falling Upward

“Sonja Livingston’s honest account of a halting return to the Catholic Church, and to its rich traditions of ritual and symbol, will speak to spiritual seekers of all stripes. Her reverence for every image, every phrase, and every idea in this book makes The Virgin of Prince Street its own act of devotion.”—Valerie Sayers, author of The Powers and Brain Fever

“A captivating account. . . . Sonja Livingston’s spiritual detective story is rendered in vivid, sensual prose, filled with insight and gentle wisdom. In the end, Livingston has written a prayer—not the dull, recited kind, but a real prayer, a deeply personal song of hope.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire

Table of Contents

Author’s Note    

Search for the Virgin, Part I: Rochester    
1. Absolute Mystery    
2. The Heart Is a First-Class Relic 
Search for the Virgin, Part II: Rochester    
3. Real Presence    
4. Feast of Corpus Christi    

Search for the Virgin, Part III: Rochester    
5. Altar Girl    
6. Miracle of the Eyes    

Search for the Virgin, Part IV: Pittsburgh    
7. Litany for a Dying Church    
8. Feast of Saint Blaise    
9. Devil’s Advocate    

Search for the Virgin, Part V: Buffalo    
10. Act of Contrition    
11. In Persona Christi    

Search for the Virgin, Part VI: Buffalo    
12. Holy Water    
13. The Marigold Parade    

Search for the Virgin, Part VII: Buffalo    
14. A Brief History of Prayer    
15. Feast of the Epiphany    

Search for the Virgin, Part VIII: Rochester    



2019 Foreword INDIES Award, Gold for Essay

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