This book was worthwhile to me, but perhaps not for the reason that the author intended. I'm not really sure even now the complete point of Ralph Wood's main thesis about Flannery O'Connor. He brings in many writers, theologians, and academics from her time and after. Many I am not familiar with, so comparisons and discussions regarding their influence or thoughts were lost on me. The author discusses southern politics, Catholic theology, and the issue of race within the South among other topics. Somehow there is a connection with Karl Barth, but again I'm not sure why. I looked up more information about Karl Barth, and found out some very interesting things. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Barth#Barmen_Declaration especially). Karl Barth was responsible for the Barmen declaration which was a statement of the Confessing Church that opposed the Nazi-supported German-Christian movement in WWII Germany. Karl Barth mailed his signed copy of the Barmen declaration to Hitler himself! He had guts, obviously. However, his link to Flannery O'Connor was lost on me. Perhaps I need to read the book again after doing a bit more reading involving those writers and theologians referenced in the book.All that aside, however, what was very helpful to me from this book were the excellent discussions about the various short stories and novels that Flannery O'Connor wrote. These to me, were worth the price of the book. As I have mentioned in other books I have read by Flannery O'Connor, I began reading her and not liking either her or her works very much. I am learning that I like her very much as a person, and am now able to see more in her short stories and novels. Ralph Wood's discussions about her works has helped my understanding of them very much. So I recommend this book, but with a little reservation. It is more academic than I expected, but the information I did gather was really worthwhile.