The Bishop's Daughter
by Honor Moore

W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. ISBN 978-0-393-05984-7.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
Posted on 06/20/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Relationships; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

In the memoir, The Bishop's Daughter, the life of Bishop Paul Moore is explored by his daughter, Honor. From an early age, Honor has tried to understand her feelings for her father. At first, she seems to worship him, describing how as a young man he had a religious experience that turned him away from his family's wealth and toward service of God. Being wounded in WW II seemed to cement his conviction in serving God as he returns a decorated hero, bearing scars from a bullet that just missed his heart. God has saved him, he believes, for a purpose, and he is chosen Bishop of the Episcopal Church, a man respected as a paragon of virtue, a spokesman for the poor and a defender of rights.

Bishop Moore was a wealthy man, but not a happy one. His first wife described him as "the most unhappy man" she ever knew. He is estranged from Honor, the oldest of his nine children, and only at a late age, when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness, do the two strive to reconcile.

While describing her father's two marriages, his fights against racial injustice, and his ascent through the church, Honor also richly describes her own battles. Sexual experimentation and secrets are threaded through the story as both father and daughter explore their bi-sexuality, their sexual freedom, and the consequences. The book explores in detail the efforts of both the bishop and his daughter to hide their secrets. After her father's death, Honor goes further, meeting his long-term male lover and trying to understand his reasons for hiding this loving relationship.

This book covers many important issues of our times: race, sex, faith, politics, war, and family. A beautifully written memoir, it includes many elements of biography and autobiography. The writing is simple, clear, and enlightening. Some of the details are unpleasant, but honest. I was pleased with the way the two lives are explored and then joined together in a truth they could both understand at the end.

Honor Moore is an award-winning poet and nonfiction writer who lives and teaches in New York City. She is the author of a biography, The White Blackbird: A Life of the Painter Margarett Sargent by her Granddaughter, which was named a New York Times Notable Book. Visit her website.

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