• An Unquenchable Thirst

  • A Memoir
  • By: Mary Johnson
  • Narrated by: Mary Johnson
  • Length: 19 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (87 ratings)

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An Unquenchable Thirst

By: Mary Johnson
Narrated by: Mary Johnson
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Publisher's Summary

An unforgettable spiritual autobiography about a search for meaning that begins alongside one of the great religious icons of our time and ends with a return to the secular world.

At seventeen, Mary Johnson saw Mother Teresa’s face on the cover of Time and experienced her calling. Eighteen months later, she entered a convent in the South Bronx to begin her religious training. Not without difficulty, this bright, independent-minded Texas teenager eventually adapted to the sisters’ austere life of poverty and devotion, and in time became close to Mother Teresa herself.

Still, beneath the white and blue sari beat the heart of an ordinary young woman facing the struggles we all share - the desire for love and connection, meaning and identity. During her twenty years with the Missionaries of Charity, Sister Donata, as she was known, grappled with her faith, her sexuality, the politics of the order, and her complicated relationship with Mother Teresa. Eventually, she left the church to find her own path - one that led to love and herself.

Provocative, profound, and emotionally charged, An Unquenchable Thirst presents a rare, privileged view of Mother Teresa. At the same time, it is a unique and magnificent memoir of self-discovery.

©2011 Mary Johnson (P)2011 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"An inspiration that transcends any particular religious belief ... An Unquenchable Thirst is a journey that captivates, but its resonance lies in the life examined." (The Denver Post)

"Readers ... will find themselves transported into another world by this powerful, revealing memoir. An aspirant to the Missionaries of Charity at age 19, the author spent 20 years living a life both extraordinarily simple and heart-wrenchingly complex. Johnson skillfully demonstrates this juxtaposition through her writing 'mundane' events, such as gathering eggs or learning to play the piano, often have tragic or miraculous implications....[Johnson's] memoir is exceptional." (Kirkus Reviews [starred review]) 

“Johnson brings readers close to her story, showing her triumphs and temptations, limning characters as compelling as those in any novel.... Her mesmerizing account of trying to orbit the sun that was Mother Teresa vividly captures a life in turmoil.” (Booklist)

What listeners say about An Unquenchable Thirst

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  • Overall
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Outstanding

This is one of the best audio books that I’ve listened to. The author has a wonderful gift for writing. The scenes described, and the thoughts and emotions felt, come through very clearly. Her narration is terrific. Great accents, voice modulations and even a couple of short verses from songs. A professional actress could not have done better.
The story of her spiritual journey is fascinating and inspiring, and is a worthwhile read/listen. I’ve been a volunteer and a Co-Worker with the sisters and the brothers for over 25 years in several cities in the US, and for almost a year with them in India. I was present at the gathering described in the epilogue of the book at St. Vincent’s in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. In addition to working with the MC’s, I’ve also spent several years at ashrams and monasteries in the US. I now work as a nurse.
I’ve found that spiritual organizations are filled with regular people who are just as prone to human weaknesses and as gifted with human greatness as anyone else. The honesty of this book was so very refreshing, and I think that it‘s great that it was written. In the end, it’s important to have fidelity to God as is understood by the individual, and not to the doctrine. There is no “one size fits all” in the spiritual life.
I think that this book will be of great help to many people who have had confusing and contradictory experiences as they have gone on their own life journeys, whether they were inside spiritual communities or not.
I have the utmost respect and admiration for the MCs, and this book did nothing to diminish those feelings. They do outstanding work under very difficult circumstances. They are heroes to me. It’s good to know that they are human, also, just like us.
Thanks to the author for writing this book, and for all that she’s done in her life.

11 people found this helpful

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A light reader enjoys the deep

I admit it: I’m a scifi, fantasy, YA kinda reader/listener. I like light reading; “The Help” is the deepest book I’d gotten into for a loooong time before this one. So why did I pick this up? A woman I know is Mary Johnson’s sister, and she mentioned it, so I read the synopsis and thought “Why not?”
Never did I think a book this deep could “read” so easily. It was marvelous to have the author do the reading as well. She did most every accent brilliantly and I could see her “characters” through the voices she used. Mary Johnson’s story is fascinating, even if it’s difficult because of it's deeply personal nature. There were times I cringed for her, but her style of writing made is so clear and lovely, I couldn't stop listening. I wanted to know what she would choose to do next.
The thing that was toughest for me was the feeling that in the early years of Mary’s involvement with the MC’s had too many parallels to an emotionally abusive relationship. Add to that the king rat tangle of Mother Teresa’s focus on suffering and slavish devotion to dogma, the inability of many sisters to truly lead rather than intimidate, and a lack of methods for proper communication within the order and you can't help but see what hinders a group that does so much good, yet could be so much more not only for the poor, but for the sisters themselves.
To balance that, for all Ms. Johnson does to reveal the faults and flaws of the Missionaries of Charity, her obvious love for the good of it shines through. She shows clearly those sisters and Priests who are amazingly real human beings that manage to transcend the limitations and reveal the love that is Mother Teresa's most basic message for the order.
Mary Johnson takes us down a rough road with such integrity, intellect, and thoughtfulness; you can’t help but want to take this trip with her.

7 people found this helpful

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Discipline, honesty, bravery

It takes discipline to get through this book and story. There are so many details to the very disciplined way of life that being an MC (under Mother Theresa) insisted upon. It was not an easy listen but I was compelled by Ms. Johnson's story and glad to have listened to the entire three parts. I kept wanting to know if Ms. Johnson found peace after all.

Ms. Johnson seemed very honest and sincere as she described what life was like as a Missionary of Charity. She seemed honest in her struggle to understand her role in the missionary and ultimately her struggles to figure out what was best for her.

Ms. Johnson certainly examined another side to who was Mother Theresa, a side most of us have never had a glimpse into. Very fascinating.

As someone curious and always interested in spirituality and wanting to live an authentic life, I was moved by Ms. Johnson's constant questions, search and hunger for knowledge and most importantly her bravery in sharing her humanness.

7 people found this helpful

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Disappointed in the graphic nun on nun action

Would you try another book from Mary Johnson and/or Mary Johnson?

No! I was not impressed with her deceptive nature.

What was most disappointing about Mary Johnson’s story?

I was interested in a story that followed Mother Theresa; I was not interested a lesbian romance novel. I thought I was reading a book that would not cross my standards of chastity. It wasn't just suggestive it was descriptive.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from An Unquenchable Thirst?

I would take out the need to titillate readers. If you want to head that direction write porn and label it as porn.

2 people found this helpful

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A Real Eyeopener

I purchased the audio version of this book and found it to be a very fair representation of a world that relatively few people are familiar with. It is an interesting topic and one of the rare books in which the narrator being the author enhanced the listening experience. For some reason that is not often a successful pairing, but Mary Johnson pulled it off well.

1 person found this helpful

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Misleading

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Looking at the title you expect the book to be more about Mother Teresa. There's too little of her in the content of the book. It's about one of the other nuns and the details of her life. Occasionally the details involve Mother Teresa but much less than what you'd expect from the title. So the title is most misleading.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment.

1 person found this helpful

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Very Great Book

I heard the author on a podcast speak briefly of her time as a nun and her exit from the community. Her story fascinated me and I immediately got the audiobook, which is read by the author. What a great listen!
Mary (Sister Donata) recounts her journey from the very first night to her exit 20 years later. I ached for her as I realized she was clearly clinically depressed for so much of that time!
She tells the truth about life in the order, revealing all of them to be extraordinary people with tales both heartbreaking and heroic.
I learned a lot about this part of Catholicism also. I thank the author for the gift of her story.

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  • 10-09-21

excellent

As a former MC sister. It was helpful to hear her story. It was helpful for me and my own journey to a healthier me.

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Amazing

So well worth the 'long read'. Ms Johnson's storytelling is superb. Her voice is expressive and calm.

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Beautiful, honest, fascinating

I loved this book so much.

Mary Johnson’s story about her life as a nun is fascinating on its own. I was looking for an entertaining read and I got it.

But there’s a bonus beauty to this book. Mary is a skilled and unflinchingly honest writer. Every ‘character’ is beautifully textured - not one is purely black and white, Including Mary herself. I’m in awe of her ability to reveal herself so completely and truthfully. I’m inspired by her strength to live her truth, to find her own way to fulfill her life’s mission. And I’m motivated to quiet my own mind and do the same. See? Bonus beauty.

Also, Mary has some acting skills! I’m impressed by her performance as a narrator. Not everyone can do it, even if they are reading their own words. Mary nails it, complete with dialects and tone changes.

Get this book.