"Forgiveness cannot be a disengaged, pastel emotion. It is demanded in the bloodiest of human circumstances, and it must stand against the strongest winds of human rage and hate. To be a real virtue, engaged with the world around us, it must be muscular, alive, and able to withstand the outrages and inequities of inhuman and inhumane acts. It must be able to face the dark side of the human condition," writes Kent Nerburn, one of America's finest essayists and author of many books including Letters to My Son. This lyrical Midwestern writer has a knack for storytelling and extracting wisdom from the ordinary precincts of everyday life. His doctorate in religion and art coupled with his love of Native American lore adds firepower to his spiritual perspective.

This down-to-earth volume on forgiveness has a natural feel to it and, unlike so many scholastic or self-help tomes on the subject, it is peppered with accounts of real people facing steep challenges. With great elan, Nerburn writes about forgiving ourselves, dealing with small slights, handling the limitations in our lives, letting anger and rage go with "a gentle almost invisible touch," cultivating the seed of hope, embodying forgiveness, and seeing this spiritual practice as love put in action.

Whether musing on his father's goodness, his mother's disappointments, his mother-in-law's pain, the betrayal of Native Americans in Minnesota, or the grief of a mother over the death of her young son, Nerburn returns again and again to forgiveness as "a habit of the heart, an inclination of the spirit, a way of living our lives in homage to all the good choices and decisions we make each day." This helpful and healing work about walking the hard road of forgiveness celebrates the triumph of the human spirit from start to finish. And equally important for Nerburn is the grace of God, a catalyst to compassionate living.