The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: A review of a much anticipated biography of Dorothy Day


Just like Kate Hennessy at the beginning of this book, I don’t even know where to start. In life, Dorothy Day hated to be written about. I hope she’s looking down happy with this book. I bet she is.

I bought this book on pre-order the moment I learned about it. I’m a huge Dorothy Day fan only becoming more and more so with each passing year. When I became a Lay Dominican, I chose her name as my religious name. As I write this review, I have an icon of her looking down on me from on top of my printer.

I was not disappointed. As the subtitle says, it is a truly intimate portrait of Kate Hennessy’s grandmother. It tells the story of her life in great detail from the roaring ’20s until her death and it’s aftermath. It speaks lovingly of the good, the bad, and everything in-between and I guarantee any follower of Dorothy Day will learn something new. It certainly gave me more to ponder.

In some ways, the book was as much about Tamar, Ms. Hennessy’s mom and Dorothy’s daughter, as Dorothy. It was not a detriment, however. I’m sure plenty of Dorothy Day’s fans, like me, are just as curious about Tamar as Dorothy. I’m not alone in wondering what it was like growing up with the Catholic Worker in the shadow of a famous mom.

The book itself is simply beautiful. The image above doesn’t do the cover justice. Inside the cover, the writing is poetic and memorable. Kate Hennessy does bounce around a bit in the timeline so sometimes it’s hard to follow. The beginning was so hard to follow, I got a little worried, but it became easier to follow with time. Her writing did remind me a lot of her grandmother’s. It is clear that she comes from a long line of writers and thinkers on both sides.

It touches upon some important social justice issues, as you’d expect. It reveals some family secrets. It paints everyone as the human beings they were, gifts, flaws and all.

The World Will Be Saved by Beauty is available now from your favorite bookseller. It is a must-read for any and all Dorothy Day devotees. It is also such beautiful writing, I’d recommend it also to anyone who is curious about Dorothy Day who loves poetic writing.

PS: I’m now an Amazon affiliate, so if you click on that link and buy anything from Amazon (it doesn’t even have to be the book, although I’d recommend it), I get a cut at no extra cost to you. Please support my family and the blog!