*The following review contains slight spoilers. For instance, at the very end of the book, Haley Joel Osment is stabbed to death. Be warned*
Surprisingly, my favorite genre of book is the biography. This is strange because normally I could care less what someone else does with their life. Oh they make more money than me? Good for them. Screw off.
However, in high school, I got the chance to read The Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase's book, "Every Man Has His Price" and to this day, I love the heck out of that book. I loved that it blended the two things I love the most, faith and pro wrestling, and gave me the best read of my life. It was the first instance in my life where I saw that you CAN make faith fun and entertaining.
Eleven years later, another biography is laying claim to "best read of my life." That autobiography belongs to Lino Rulli. His book Sinner is an amazing piece of work.
This book is a love-letter to anyone who has ever enjoyed his three-hour radio show.
I may be biased. After all, it was Lino Rulli's show that led me to my wife Allicia, and gave me the courage and knowledge needed to convert to Catholicism. So if I ever sound like a brown-nosed ass-kisser, well, so be it. Lino has done enough for me that saying nice things about him on blogs is the least I can do.
But I believe in honesty. And if Lino's book had sucked, I would have mentioned it. But it doesn't suck. This book is a love-letter to anyone who has ever enjoyed his three-hour radio show. For instance, there are chapters, such as Cave-Girl, that are simply elaborations of stories that we've heard on air before. It's rewarding to read those stories and remember the day he first talked about it.
I like that Lino didn't begin the book with the obligatory, "I was born on a dark and stormy night in 1951." Instead, the book kicks off with perhaps the funniest childhood memory he's reminisced about: His dad becoming an organ grinder.
For as much as Lino goofs on his parents, you can hear his voice beaming with pride as he talks about them in this book. The chapter about his mother was especially touching, as he stated that he was "devoted to the most virtuous woman I know: My Mom."
The book is like an extended episode of The Catholic Guy Show. Lino is just as honest as he is on the radio, something that still feels cutting edge and fresh. A Christian author admitting to stories of prostitution? Who would have guessed such a thing?
Without giving away anything, I dare you not to laugh at his recollection of being on a beach with the pot-smoker, or his detailed explanations behind each major break-up he initiated.
The book has a great flow. Reading it, I really did feel like I was listening to the show, only without the stupid breaks. It made it easy to rip through 50 pages in 40 minutes, which is also a let down because the paperback is just a bit over 200 pages long.
And those of you expecting detailed reports on EVERY drunken escapade will be sorely disappointed. Yes, Lino shares some sordid tales, but he doesn't go into great, lavish detail about every drunken night he's had. And I like that. If he had done so, it would have definitely raised some eyebrows, with people no doubt wondering if he was just a little TOO fond of the good old days.
But you don't get that sense at all. When you read Sinner, you really get a taste of a man who is honest about is shortcomings, but even more honest about wanting to stay right with Christ. One moment, I'm reading the book thinking, "Wow, I'm glad I'm not that bad.' The next moment, I think to myself, "Geez, I'm just as bad as Lino: I should feel more apologetic than I do."
The book does make you examine your own conscience, wondering what ways you could improve your relationship with God. And when you aren't wondering how you could improve your relationship with God, you're laughing with what might be the most enjoyable Catholic book written in years.
There were things I wish the book had done though. Some of us are so used to Lino having cronies who chime in and offer witty banter, that Lino just talking by himself just feels slightly empty sometimes. Lino is at his best when he has someone to banter with. Yes, it's Lino's book, but having Fr. Rob, Fr. Jim, Maureen, Ryan or Lou contribute sidebar commentary would have been an excellent addition to the book (Stephen Colbert's book executed footnotes flawlessly, and I hope that Lino's next book makes use of these).
And it's so damned short! I know that a shorter book keeps costs down, but a few extra chapters would have been a welcome addition (or perhaps pages photocopied from his man journal).
All in all though, Lino has a natural gift of communication, and it has never been more clear than it is in the pages of this book. I really do hope he branches out and writes more books.
Lino Rulli may be a sinner, but this gift of a book brings him one step closer to sainthood.
Visit the links at the top of this page to order Sinner. Or visit St. Anthony Messenger Press at www.americancatholic.org