Hope in the Face of Uncertainty: One Night Two Souls Went Walking by Ellen Cooney

24 Feb

In an age where churches are facing a significant membership decline and many Americans are deviating from formal religion, comes the compelling and poignant novel One Night Two Souls Went Walking by the award-winning author Ellen Cooney. The protagonist, a young female hospital chaplain, who remains unnamed, is struggling with her faith and fears that her “soul is broken,” because she has not subscribed to any formal religion in years. However, she has been given the responsibility of tending to the souls of her patients during the hospital’s quiet and eerie night shift and offering them consolation during their suffering and in some cases final moments.

She is an unorthodox chaplain, because she tends to wear her white collar with bright-colored blouses rather than clerical black and her hair is often tangled and unmanageable. She also lacks confidence in her ministerial duties and has low self-esteem. However, her patients welcome her calm and quiet bedside manner and feel more than free to share their life’s regrets and cardinal sins with her. There is the cranky bus driver involved in a crash where four people died, the obese bank teller who wants to be sure the angel carrying her into the afterlife is strong enough not to drop her, and the frail elderly woman who has had a stroke and is unable to speak but does not want to be admitted. Then, there is the former airport employee who ironically never flew and, in his last moments of life, wants her to speak to him as if he is on a plane that is about to take off. However, her most challenging and heart wrenching patient is the fifteen-year-old paralyzed surfer who is the sole survivor of a rock-climbing accident and must now learn how to surf in his head with her guidance. As her stressful and draining evening shift wears on, a therapy dog suddenly appears with a gift for providing comfort to the patients, but is this dog real or a ghost, because he disappears as quickly as he appeared and no one else can see him except the patients and the chaplain.

Although the story unfolds over the course of one night, Cooney’s uplifting novel captures the interior lives of the chaplain and her patients with great warmth and depth, evoking the challenges and rewards in moments of fear and pain. One Night Two Souls Went Walking captures extraordinary moments of sadness, pain, and grace as one woman attempts to bring light and a sense of magic to some of life’s darkest moments. In this age of uncertainty and skepticism, Cooney’s novel is refreshing and restores a sense of hope and faith in spirituality. You can borrow it as an ebook from from Hoopla or as print copy from Hoboken and other BCCLS libraries.

Written by:
Ethan Galvin
Information and Digital Services Librarian

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