The last 50 years of Argentinian history are somewhere in my peripheral memory. I had the outlines, but not details. This book is rich in Argentinian history, and especially the role that the Catholic church in general and Bergoglio in particular played in it. The author blog says that he has his Ph.D. in the role of the church in Argentina, and I can certainly tell that's his passion in the book. The storyline is clear and I learned a great deal.
The author is Catholic, and is clearly a fan of Pope Francis. This biography is clearly heavily biased toward its subject. But that isn't such a bad thing. He's open about it. It makes his claims that those who don't like Bergoglio were just jealous of his popularity, integrity, and humility a little suspect. There's probably another side to the story. But frankly, I can imagine the other side, and it's not that important to the story of the culture and life story from which Pope Frances has come. He has lived a life consistently focused on assisting the poorest of the poor and living the love of Christ. I'm not Christian, but I'm very interested in religion, and the story of Bergoglio's life is told in a very relate-able, understandable way for people of any faith.
When I was halfway through this book, someone asked me what the difference in theology is between this pope and the previous one. I couldn't tell them, except that the action brought about by Francis' faith focuses on social justice. This book is not full of arguments quoting the gospels. It's not an argument that change is needed in the Church or what the Church has done wrong in the last several years. It just focuses on Pope Frances and the Argentina he hails from. In fact, much of the book, and the best part of the book, focuses on a time period in which Bergoglio is not really rising in the ranks of the church, but just working in relative anonymity in Buenos Aires and the region around the Jesuit school he worked in for years.
I read this book hoping to gain a greater understanding of the new pope's background and how he views and lives life. I wanted to know what he considers the most important aspect of the Church's role, and this book answered that clearly and thoroughly. It was what I hoped it would be. And if I had to chose a bias for the biography I read about this Pope, I would have chosen a sympathetic one, as in this book. The unsympathetic views are easy enough to find elsewhere.
I got a free copy of this book from the First Reads program.