"An Unquenchable Thirst" is the DoubleX Book of the Week

What Women Really Think
Dec. 2 2011 1:01 PM

DoubleX Book of the Week: An Unquenchable Thirst


If I had a personal list of the best books of 2011, An Unquenchable Thirst would be on it. Mary Johnson's memoir of her time with Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity has everything a memoir needs: an inside look at a way of life that most of us will never see, a physical and emotional journey, and suspense of an unusual kind--the reader knows from the beginning that Johnson will leave the "MCs." The real question is what among the various sacrifices, indignities, and disillusionments of life within the order will push her over the edge.

Mary Johnson spent 20 years as "Sister Donata" and rose within the ranks of Mother Theresa's missionaries, working directly with Mother Theresa and with those who now run the order. She describes the calling that took her, at 19, to the Bronx to work with Mother Theresa after seeing her on the cover of Time, and she bluntly narrates the struggles that follow: her confusion over how much sacrifice one's God should demand, her eventual regret for the physical pleasures that she left behind, and her gradual realization that moral certainty can conceal a mighty thirst for power behind a veil of sanctitude, but only for so long.


An Unquenchable Thirst is much more than a single Catholic journey, and it's far from a book only for current or former Catholics. Johnson's is a spiritual journey much starker and more enthralling than most. It's a courageous and often dark book—the author is unsparing in her descriptions of her own failings and those of the women (and occasionally men) around her. It's a sensual book that vividly depicts the temptations of a life that is not only celibate, but lived as though any unnecessary physical contact was both sinful and suspect. And in its harsh examination of what it means to want to dedicate a life to service, only to realize that the image you held of that life rings hollow after decades, An Unquenchable Thirst is an incredible coming of age story. No interest in theology necessary.

KJ Dell'Antonia is a writer living in New Hampshire. She writes the EcoLiving column for Kiwi magazine and is the co-author ofReading With Babies, Toddlers and Twos: Choosing, Reading and Loving Books Together.



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 2:57 PM ISIS Helps Snuff Out Conservative Opposition to Government Funding Bill
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.