Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Book Review - Soul Within a Peach

Book Cover

"My name is Florence. I am a child of God. I do God's will."

Although this book was written about and by a Catholic woman born and raised in Hawaii , I would not have known about it if it were not for one of my dear friends now deceased whose book I now own.

Soul Within a Peach is about the life, especially the spiritual life of Florence Sau Kin. It was ghost-written by her spiritual son Fr. Francis Chun, a Catholic priest in Milwaukee .

In the beginning Florence talks about her life as a child. She was born in Hawaii to Chinese parents and raised a Buddhist. The way she relates her difficult early childhood is reminiscent of the old tragic Chinese novels and films. It is more a story of old China than it is about someone in Hawaii, even before Statehood.

Even as a young child, many people, especially members of her own family took advantage of young Florence.

"I never realized how hard my life was as a child and teenager until I began writing this book for God. My suffering in life began in childhood and continued throughout my life. Suffering has made me a strong woman, brought me closer to God, and taught me His spiritual lessons, which I want to share with you."

I will share one incident here to illustrate what little Florence had to endure at the hands of a family member. One of her father's sisters had a very sick husband. He was admitted to the hospital's tuberculosis ward. Since this aunt did not have any children of her own, she asked Florence's parents to let Florence keep her company. Amazingly, Florence's parents acquiesced to such a request and she ended up living with the aunt from ages five to eight.

."..The Chinese children of my generation were taught to obey without questioning. My time spent with my aunt was work. She made me do the dishes, dust the furniture and go on my knees to clean the wooden floor around the Chinese rugs with a dust pan and brush. If she found a dust speck, she made me dust everything again. She never allowed me to go out to play with the neighbors' children. Sometimes she punished me without reason by not giving me supper. The Chinese children of my generation were taught to obey without questioning, and God had made my soul an obedient one. So I learned to obey at a young age."

Later, this same aunt without Florence's prior knowledge or consent, would take Florence to China to live for a few years. The aunt somehow convinced Florence's parents to again part with their daughter.

Florence, obedient child of God, accepted these hardships early in life. These experience helped form her spiritually little by little.

It was while living in China that a medium revealed to Florence that she had "sin kwat" or saintly bones.

Florence explains that "Sin Kwat, saintly bones, can have two Chinese meanings: that the spirit of a saint has been reincarnated in the form of this person; or that this person is saintly herself."

No need to explain that it is sinful for Catholics to believe in fortunetellers, reincarnation, etc. but at the time, Florence as a Buddhist as aforesaid and this is what she remembered.

The years went on and she met a man who ultimately, but not through the best of situations became her husband. Her husband and his family were Catholic. He graduated from St. Louis School in Honolulu. Even though her married life was also a struggle and very difficult because of her husband and his family, it led her to the Catholic Church.

Florence had only a second grade education. Yet more importantly, she had great wisdom, a gift from the Holy Spirit, with whom she had a special relationship with, and much common sense. Throughout the book, Florence often refers to the "inner voice" speaking to her.

She was a kind woman who was dedicated to her husband, children, the stereotypically mean and unjust mother-in-law and everyone who asked for her help. Many times people sullied her reputation or took advantage of her open-handed and openhearted generosity.

Yet, each bad episode she took as a learning experience. She offered her sufferings to God and was always obedient to Him. She did not care how much she suffered as long as she did not offend God.

As I mentioned earlier, Florence had a ghostwriter because she lost her eyesight later in life. Father Chun did a very good job of writing the book without losing Florence's spirit of playfulness and child-like quality. Many times in the book I would laugh at incidents Florence shares. Many times too I wanted to smack some sense into Florence especially when she permitted others to take advantage of her kindness.

Whenever Florence shares a moment where she was hurt or suffered from someone's inconsiderateness, she shares a lesson for the reader.

To share an example, Florence was a big promoter of the Home Enthronement to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey, a Sacred Hearts priest and member of the same order as Saint Damien, originated that devotion. She wanted everyone whom she helped enthrone their home, to spread the devotion to others.
"...I later learned that Dora never spread the Enthronement to other homes according to our agreement and plan. Through the years I've learned that many people perform religious acts to gain respect and praise for themselves instead of doing them to honor and praise God. When you take part in religious ceremonies, be sure to do so to give due thanks, honor and glory to God, and not for selfish reasons.

Many of us don't share our spiritual blessing with others. A true Christian life is a life of sharing, so we shouldn't keep good things just for ourselves. I tried to s hare the many blessings of the Enthronement with others because it was one of the greatest blessings I received from God. Having it in our home deepened our faith and reliance on God. If we welcome God into our homes ad hearts with love and gratitude, we will experience His presence and love in a special way through many special blessings."
I also found this book very interesting because of the places Florence described are all around my new hometown of Honolulu. She mentions certain churches, streets, etc. that are all very familiar to me.

It is sad that Florence passed away in 2000 before her book was published. I now wonder if I may have attended Mass or a Catholic function with her. I have asked a few people I know if they knew her but so far, I have to yet meet anyone who knew this amazingly simple yet saintly woman. I know my son's now deceased Godmother probably knew her since they both raised their families close by or the friend whose book I now have. But right now it is too late to ask them.

If you would like to obtain this book, be sure to check out Amazon.com. My mother read the book before me and she could not put it down. She bought two copies from Amazon and each one cost under $5.00 with shipping and handling.


Easter A. said...

Esther, I found this on Ian Ibana's website. I, too, may have met her before and didn't even know who she was. Thanks for this review!

Esther G. said...

YW Easter.