ISBN 0385522703 - Normally, I keep my own religious views to myself, because it will offend some people, but this is one rare instance when I think that knowing what I think will help clarify my review. So, don't hold my religious thoughts against me, please! I think all religions are silly, they're all cults, and most of them can legitimately be called terrorists. I read about religion all the time and find it fascinating because I can't understand why rational people would believe the stuff. I sometimes joke that Scientology was created by Christianity so that there would be always be one religion out there that's weirder than theirs. Exorcism is certainly one topic that makes Christianity look insane, sometimes even to Christians. I mention this all, not to belittle believers, but to point out that even I - an avid non-believer - found The Rite worth reading.
Father Gary, an American priest, has volunteered to take a course aimed at teaching people how to perform exorcisms. The course is offered at a university in Italy, which lends some surprisingly credibility to the course. That credibility is bolstered by the presence of doctors and members of law enforcement, who contribute information to help teach how to tell the difference between mental / medical problems and possession and information about cult activity. While there, Father Gary hears stories from exorcists and gets to spend some time with Father Carmine while he performs exorcisms.
Author Matt Baglio has accomplished something very surprising here. The book is part the history of exorcism and the church and part Father Gary's story. Father Gary - a man who once fell off a mountain and nearly died - turns out to be way more boring than the history. That's a huge surprise! The history is well written and interesting and the personal story is a snore! Still, I think most readers are here for the history and the story of exorcism and, in that, I think the reader will enjoy Baglio's effort.
Rather than convincing the reader about the usefulness of exorcism or the existence of demons, the book seems to inadvertently highlight the absurdity. Baglio makes an effort to present both the "liberal" and "conservative" viewpoints within the church, apparently in an effort to report without a bias. This works well and Baglio can't be faulted for the fact that the topic rarely rises above silly. Father Carmine performs exorcisms for busloads of people on a daily basis, even though the book frequently claims that the ritual is performed rarely and with some discrimination. The church has accepted that previous causes for exorcism, like epilepsy, turned out to have a rational medical explanation, but continues to insist (even with recently renewed vigor) that exorcism is an important tool of the church. This smacks of terrorism to me and is all I really get from the book. Baglio, however, does a very good job of explaining where the church stands now, where it has stood before and how it danced its way from position to position over the years.
A small complaint - the font used for the chapter titles is AnNoYiNg. Like the title of the book, the words are written with one large letter, one small, one large, etc., but all in caps. It seems unnecessary and kind of belittled the seriousness of the book.