Review: A View from the Back Pew by Tim O’Donnell

Tim O’Donnell takes us on a journey from his life in Catholic school, annoying the nuns, to college including a study abroad time in Rome, and into his career. Through it all he is searching for a deeper spiritual connection to God, rejecting the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that he feels had kept him separated from God.

O’Donnell does a good job of discussing his personal spiritual quest. His stories are amusing, his tone is conversational, and he comes across as an honest, caring man. He takes some difficult concepts and makes his view of them accessible.

First, I should mention that yes, I’m a Christian, but I’ve been attending the same United Methodist Church since I was like 8, so I don’t have the same issues that O’Donnell does from his Catholic upbringing. I never felt that the church stood in the way of a personal relationship with God, I feel it encourages it. Also, his issues with the priesthood -celibacy, only men- are not controversies in our church. And I don’t think Mary was a virgin her entire life. Maybe if I had a similar background I would be more concerned with some of his topics.

I was talking to my mom about this book the other day. If I had read this book 10 or 15 years ago, I would have loved it. I would have thought that he was so right, that he had it figured out. But that would have been then, now I can say that while I found parts of his story relatable and agree with a lot of what he said, I can’t agree with his conclusions and I would be uncomfortable recommending this to any of my friends.

I agree with him that religion can be questioned, but I think in throwing out hundreds of years of debate, tradition, and inspiration, he’s dismissing a lot that can be meaningful. And I just can’t agree with his conclusions. As a personal narrative it’s a good read, but not one I would suggest reading for spiritual truths.

You may feel differently. If nothing else, it’ll make you think about your own beliefs.

280 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by Linchpin Publishing

2 out of 5 stars

Purchase at Amazon or an Indie bookstore.

My ARC was provided by TLC tours and the author for review. The above is my honest opinion.


  1. This does sound interesting, but like you, I’m not sure how I would feel about the conclusions reached. I grew up Catholic but now consider myself a non-denominational Christ follower. In terms of spiritual questioning I’m more a fan of the theory that it’s okay to doubt but be sure to also doubt your doubt. 😉

  2. Interesting how you say that years ago you might have liked this one. I dont know how I’d feel about this one myself. Growing up Catholic, I do follow my religion, but I don’t ever think any of it is strictly black and white. There are always grey areas.

  3. carol

    hopefully the questioning we go through allows us to see a little more clearly what we actually do believe but it is an ongoing process – only “then” will we see clearly…

    “perpetual virgin” ?? have I not heard of that concept?

Leave a comment