Friday, July 29, 2016

Memoirs of a Happy Failure (Saint Benedict Press)

If you're like me, you were probably introduced to Dr. Alice von Hildebrand through EWTN. She appeared on a variety of their shows from "The Journey Home" to "EWTN Bookmark." If you ever watched any of the shows with her on, you could tell that even in her advanced years, she was still a keenly intelligent woman. Despite her brilliance, what she is probably best known for is being married to Dietrich von Hildebrand. Thanks to Saint Benedict Press, we have the opportunity to learn more about her in the book Memoirs of a Happy Failure.

Memoirs of a Happy Failure begins when Alice was 17. She was onboard the SS Washington. She was traveling with her sister when they were informed that all passengers had to leave the ship, because it was intercepted by the Germans and was going to be torpedoed. They made their way to their assigned lifeboat, but it was full, so she expected to die that night. Clearly, she did not, but that had to be a very sobering experience at that early of an age. Chapter Two flashes back to her childhood in Belgium and how sheltered of an existence it was. This provided the necessary contrast in the book for her arrival to America. We then learn of her life in New York, going to school and excelling (despite her aunt and uncle thinking she wouldn't), but a bulk of the book deals with her teaching.

The bulk of the book deals with her as a teacher/professor at Hunter College, because that is primarily what her life was. After all, she taught from 1947 to 1984. That is nearly 40 years of teaching experience and is impressive no matter what level at which you teach. During her time teaching, we see that she faced many professional hardships from her peers who looked to stab her in the back at every turn. A weaker person would not have survived these attacks, but her love of teaching, her love of her students, and her love of the truth gave her the necessary strength and motivation to continue teaching. She knew that she had to keep "preaching" objective truth in a world of moral relativism.

When looking at her career as a teacher, she is considered a "failure" by most accounts, hence the title of her memoirs. One could argue that her students would view her as a happy success instead. She was fiercely devoted to her students and for the most part, the feeling was mutual. There is mention of her husband in this memoir, but he does not overshadow her like he did in real life. Even though, they were published by two separate companies, I believe this book is perfect to pair with her husband's memoir My Battle Against Hitler.

This book was provided to me for free by Saint Benedict Press in exchange for an honest review. If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes.