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„Natural law for human beings is our power of reasoning (…) things out, not some blind physical rule that has been imposed on us” – to such a final conclusion comes Muss, the hero of John Wijngaards’ novel “Amrutha”. The so called “Pope’s man” had to follow a long way before reaching this idea. In the first chapters of the book we meet Monsignor Shamus McKenna, an Italian-Irish priest working In the Doctrine of Faith Congregation. A meeting with an unusual woman, an Indian scientist Amrutha, changes his life forever.
During the next thirteen years we follow the life of Muss, who believes he’s been commissioned by the Pope himself to study the “nature of women”. One rule guides him: to always obey the law of the nature as the divine law that cannot be changed.
The novel belongs to this kind of books that one cannot stop reading until its end. The Vatican’s bureaucrat meets different cultures and religions, starts to understand women coming from different background (a Hindu Brahmin family, a Malaysian Muslim and a matriarchal community on a lonely island). He experiences being a husband and a father. The mentioned Amrutha becomes his personal guide. Her words lead him to the discovery of the real nature law. “People who enclose themselves within the limits of animal survival will not see reality as it is. They will make the world as small as their own narrow mind”, says Amrutha.
John Wijngaards gives us an excellent picture of different cultures and religions. He also unveils the ancient prejudices against women that seem to be common for Hindus, Christians and Muslims. Horrified Muss discovers the reality of widowed women in traditional families in India, finds out about the inner life of an Arabian harem and starts to understand how many prejudices exist also in the traditional Catholic Church’s teaching. Yet he gets a proof that women and men share exactly the same nature. Will he manage to change the Church’s hierarchy’s attitude towards women or, for example, for LGBT people?
I strongly recommend the book to all who are interested in the adventurous stories in exotic (for Europeans and Americans) countries. I also recommend it to people who looks for something requiring more thinking as there’s a lot of philosophical and theological background in the novel, yet it’s not boring at all). I hope that you will find the book as worthy as I did.


Added: December 26, 2011
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I cannot go along with the book's vision of sexuality as intrinsically good.
I have firmly made up my mind about sex. That has not been a matter of blindly going along with some supposed authority. My opinion on sex is the result of my own experience, own investigation and independent, thorough thinking. Only after all this I saw how right St. Augustine was. And he was right, because he was radically honest.
I am convinced that the only way to see why sex is actually very hurtful for women, is to put male sexuality mercilessly under the philosophical X-ray. I have not yet learned of any man, outside Augustine and some like him, honest enough to want that to happen, let alone to do so themselves.
The book tries - be it unconsciously or not - to cover up and get round the fact of intrinsic aggressiveness of male sexuality, just as 99,9% of men are, in a compulsive attempt not to lose grip on their only biological purpose. Church patriarchy cunningly gets round male sexuality too: they mystify male sexuality and at the same time define and condemn female sexuality, in order to keep a grip on people. And they indeed succeed in leaving most people confused about sex.
I am not confused at all. I find sex wrong. Period. I find it wrong, because it leaves equality mainly in the power of the man, which prevents a marriage from ever being really equal at all.
I understand traditional patriarchy's practical purpose of condemning female sexuality: the only ones who are responsible in the end for not letting ourselves get invaded and owned by a man are us women. Unfortunately, women still totally lack proper education about the true nature of male sexuality. I am convinced that if all women could take a look through the philosophical X-ray at male sexuality, as I do, as Augustine did, all would want to stay a virgin and would obtain semen at the sperm bank for procreation. For no female with just a bit of a brain would ever want to submit to a man anymore. The power of virginity is invincible indeed.


Added: November 26, 2011
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Thank you so much for writing “Amrutha”. What a transformational book! How inspired to use the techniques and tricks of a best-seller to examine and expose imprisoning, constricting assumptions about the nature of women in mainstream religions! I was captivated from beginning to end as I followed your charismatic Monsignor being swept along by the loving, life-giving, spiritual power of women, against his own cynical “better” judgement and training. It was so enjoyable to follow his experiences, both uproariously comic and moving and potentially tragic, as he found that what defines a person is reason, not nature, whatever the particular proportions of his or her chromosomes. I was caught up in the fast-moving adventure and the suspense but also overwhelmed by the novel’s tenderness, sensitivity and fearless honesty.
A friend to whom I lent the book yesterday as soon as I had finished it, could not put it down and read it until the early hours of this morning. It had huge appeal for her, not least because of what it says about motherhood’s being the true vocation of all women. She has suffered from parishioners’ intrusive and critical questions about why she herself doesn’t have children, as if she has rejected her vocation, though, as it happens, she did try to have babies but couldn’t.


Added: September 25, 2011
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That the search for a phenomenon in theological textbooks, namely the law of nature, could lead to a thriller, few people would have believed. However, with a wealth of detail in the description of backgrounds and creating lively characters and astounding speed in the telling of the story, Wijngaards lets his main character, Monsignor McKenna, make the most stunning discoveries in a cascade of adventures. This high-ranking Vatican burocrat has never in his life acted differently than according to what authorities claim as the true way of living for a good Catholic, keeping strictly to the law of nature. He grows in moral stature, when he leaves the Vatican office, where he is almost a nonentity, and travels to India to study the nature of women and how the law of nature pertains to men and women alike, himself not excluded.
My friends are queuing up to read the book too!


Added: September 23, 2011
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Amrutha is a pure, enchanting, sometimes surprising and fun novel exploring human sexual desire with some twists in a cliff-hanger plot through the eyes of a priest! There are intriguing looks inside Vatican bureaucracy and politics (although as a non-Catholic, the Church’s sexual mores went right over my head). I just loved the explicit, pure, sensitive, sexual depictions. Amrutha strips away (bares?) the shame we are taught of Adam and Eve in their nakedness and the subsequent repression of women. This book helps us understand better God’s “Natural law” that our hunter-gather societies took for granted.
Jonathan


Added: September 13, 2011
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Well, I devoured AMRUTHA. Couldn't put it down A real page turner! Well done!
And I certainly had a few laughs!... I presume most of it owes more to author's imagination than to actual island experience!....
I hope this book opens up/kick starts people's imaginations... I think that is the most severely damaged faculty in our present situation where legalism and dogmatism rule, not to mention deadly seriousness that would destroy our joie de vivre!
So well done!
My only question is : When are we going to see the film?
Soline


Added: September 5, 2011
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