Judith Toy's book, Murder as a Call to Love: A True Story of Transformation and Forgiveness, is intense, powerful, painful and hard to read. I met Judith at a book signing before I read the book. She read a piece of it out loud and I found myself sobbing. I went home and read the book in one sitting and cried through much of it. I tried to put it down, because it was so hard, but I couldn't do it, that's how compelling her story and her writing are. What Judith Toy is proposing here. . . what she has in fact done in her own life, is no less than spiritual alchemy. Complete transformation of one thing into another - base metal into gold, manure into compost . . . rage/fear/pain into forgiveness/mercy/love. And she is just like us! This is a beautiful story that tells us that this world IS redeemable, that WE are redeemable, that there is NOTHING in this world that cannot be redeemed by the awesome power of love. Do not pick up Murder As A Call to Love unless you are prepared to be cracked open and possibly transformed yourself.
--Angela F. Jordan author of We End in Joy, Memoirs of a First Daughter
In a most remarkable and revealing book, Black Mountain author Judith Toy traces her spiritual transformation that began when she survived the mass murder of several of her family members. This book, quite simply, will move you and, most likely, will cause you to reexamine events in your own life in a new and thoughtful manner.
A young man hid in a garage in an affluent neighborhood, waiting until his intended victims were asleep. Later, in the darkness, he bludgeoned and stabbed to death Judith’s sister-in-law and her two teenaged nephews. The 19-year-old murderer was no stranger. He was the boy from across the street, a family friend.
Judith says she felt emotionally battered by the tragic event, and then a friend introduced her to a Zen monk. “Seeking solace and protection … I set out on the path of meditation and mindfulness practice, calming my body and mind every day,” she explains.
Then—spontaneously—she forgave the boy, describing that experience as “striking a match to the straw of my grief. I did not set out to forgive him. But it happened …” She says it came in the form of what Christians call grace and Buddhists call prajnaparamita.
Judith went on to lead a mindfulness practice in a medium security prison where some of the men knew the killer. Judith was ordained by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and she and her husband, also ordained, have founded three Zen communities and together lead workshops around the world.
This is a gripping tale of loss, torment, forgiveness, and an awakening to deep peace.
--Paul Howey, Editor The Laurel of Asheville
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5 stars A wonderful story of the opening of the heart, December 14, 2011 By Dharma Teacher Roger Shikan Hawkins
Judith Toy has made a courageous effort to bare her soul in this book. She openly shares all of herself, and her poetry shines. Skillfully employing the Buddha's teaching of no separate self, she helps us open our hearts to the depths of our own and others' suffering.
There we find that beneath our fear lies the fire of our longing to give and receive unconditional love. Toy shows us that finding the courage and determination to face our deeply entrenched fears -- especially fear of the dissolution of our egos -- comes from our innate wholeness.
Intense, yet tender and gentle, exposing our resistance, Toy takes us into the depths of pain, transformation, and finally love and forgiveness. This is a masterful literary effort by a very talented teacher.
5 stars A Recovery Essential
Carl Jung wrote, "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." Clearly Judith Toy's book, Murder As a Call to Love: A True Story of Transformation and Forgiveness, comes straight from her heart. The book is down to earth and accessible, clearly reflecting the openness of the author. She explores her own troubled past, including her addictive experience, and fully acknowledges her human folly and puts it on display. At first glance it seems there is a danger and a vulnerability in her approach, but it becomes quite apparent that it was only through this process of facing her own longings that she was led to Zen and the discovery of her true self -- that she was touched by grace. Today her life reaffirms that miracles are not meant to be understood but to be experienced. Being at one with God, the Universe, and others, she is actively sowing seeds of peace and happiness, and each of us stands to benefit from the bountiful harvest. This wonderful book has made an indelible impression upon my life. I recommend it without reservation.
--Bruce Arrowood, Emeritus Director of Libraries, University of West Virginia, Parkersburg. ***
5.0 out of 5 stars Opening my heart...., May 26, 2012 Judith Toy's moving new memoir caused a total transformation in my heart. I learned about her path to Zen and exactly what led to her decision to turn her life over to a power greater than herself. Always curious about what it takes to wear the brown robes of Thay disciples, my questions were definitely answered. As a recovering woman myself, I was moved by Judith's experience with alcohol and her sufferings just from this disease alone. Then, the murders and her ultimate path to forgiveness gave me courage to forgive certain 'unforgivable' people in my life. After 8 years of recovery from drugs, alcohol, codependency and more, I thought I had practiced forgiveness while working the 12 Steps! Not so. After reading her book, I gained insight that truly transformed my life. Very Powerful!! A Transformational Experience--Betty T. *****
By Richard Brady, senior Dharma teacher for Thich Nhat Hanh I just finished reading Murder As A Call to Love but know that it will be reading me for the rest of my life. If you are not concerned with the transformation of suffering, this is not a book you need to read.*****
5 stars Suggested Read for Everyone..., November 26, 2011 By Roberta H. Binder (Black Mountain North Carolina United States)
What a surprising and power-filled memoir, personal family tragedy, journey to forgiveness,resolution and life being lifted and finally moving forward filled with Love and ultimately forgiveness. Life's hurts and healings come to us from so many different ways. It is never really clear what a day will hold and how a single phone call can so dramatically change ones life. The decades of hurt, pain, searching, resolution, sitting through a horrid trial, trying to find the doorway out of personal hell and then being present enough to recognize the teacher when the time was right! It is amazing what we humans are often asked to journey through in our lives and it is helpful to hear that getting up the next morning and the next and the next is possible, especially when Love opens the correct door that provides healing for the heart. A thank you to Judith Toy for opening her life that we all might learn and move further forward in our journey along that path of Love called Life. ***** 5 stars Zen as an antidote for murder? You bet, February 24, 2012 By Ryn Gargulinski "Writer, artist, performer" (Tucson, AZ) This review is from: Murder As A Call to Love: A True Story of Transformation and Forgiveness (Paperback)The next time you're whining about doing something difficult, take a lesson from Judith Toy. Toy succeeded in doing one of the most difficult things one could imagine, something many of us would perhaps never be able to bring ourselves to do. She forgave the guy who murdered three of her family members.
We're not talking about her standing up at a courtroom podium and mouthing words of forgiveness since that's what "good" people are "supposed" to do. We're talking about deep, real, from-the-gut forgiveness that some of us can't even give our boss when he denies our selected vacation days.
She found it in her soul to forgive the 19-year-old mixed-up man-child who brutally murdered her sister-in-law and two teenage nephews.
None of this happened overnight, of course. Nor did she embrace forgiveness from the get-go. She was only able to obtain the true serenity and inner peace through her journey into Zen.
That's where the real joy of the book kicks in. We get to go with her.
Toy's 5-year journey from a livid victim to a woman with a heart pumping with true forgiveness opens our own eyes to the time and energy we waste on resentment and hate. It eventually leads to her ordination by Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and passing on the spiritual practice to the last place she would have originally never dared to tread: a prison where some inmates knew the man-child killer.
Things finally seem to come full circle, as life is wont to do. Peppered with teachings from Thich Nhat Hanh, Toy's life - and her book - shimmies through the most arduous of situations with life lessons you won't soon forget. Especially if you end up sticking some of them on your fridge.
We could all use daily reminders of the peace we can find in even the most arduous situations that feel like they are ripping out the fibers of our very souls. "Murder as a Call to Love" provides that reminder. It helps us live in the moment. It lets us embrace constant change and uncertainty. It allows us to delve beneath the surface of emotions and act, rather than react, to situations that would normally make us sick.
And it even gives us the power to forgive our boss when he screws up our vacation. *****
5 stars A true healer January 9, 2012 By Carole Zissman (Medford, New Jersey)
On July 6, 2000, I was given the gift of life, a kidney from Judith Toy. For years, I had turned to Jude for her wisdom on all aspects of life. When she offered her kidney, as I was suffering on dialysis, I was afraid for her. Judith's confidence gained from her Zen practice, as well as all of her life's journey was unshakable. Her spiritual, mental and physical generosity has given me 11 years of extended life. My gratitude is as deep as the ocean. Jude is my healer, she is also a universal healer. Her book continues to teach me about unconditional love and forgiveness. Anyone on a spiritual journey, or not will learn from her words. *****
5 stars Life-Changing Story, Life-Changing Book, January 8, 2012 By Russell Smith
What a wonderful, life-changing book. If we can learn to forgive a person who has murdered members of our family, imagine what kind of healing we could bring to everyday situations. If enough people could read and learn from this book, even the world could be healed and transformed.
5 stars What lies on the other side of pain, January 2, 2012 By Laura Dominkovic
Murder as a Call to Love is a captivating recollection of how grief and pain of a family caused by a horrific murder is transformed into love and forgiveness. On the path of healing from anger at a young man who murdered her family and the pain of her loss, the author and her husband courageously immerse themselves in places of tremendous suffering, to spread the seeds of love and joy to prison inmates, as well as to Romanian orphans. By looking inside of herself through the embracing of Buddhism, and by giving her humanity to those in pain, the author does the unimaginable for most of us: she finds forgiveness for the murderer. Her humorous look at life is reflected in her writing style, and mixed with the heart-breaking descriptions of her life events that led to her forgiveness. This book shows how facing, embracing and working with personal pain and fears can bring healing, forgiveness, non-judgment and loving kindness, which is a true path to joy and happiness.
5 stars Powerful and Compelling!, February 29, 2012
Murder as a Call to Love by Judith Toy is an intense and powerful analysis of an unexpected and traumatic event that profoundly affects Judith and her entire family. She embarks on an epic journey of questioning, despair, and research to find herself transcending the life-changing event with genuine forgiveness for a murderer. An analysis of her past and current life becomes part of a deep spiritual quest that leads Judith to a haven in Zen Buddhism and forgiveness. As an important part of her life review on the journey to forgiveness, Judith also shares how she selflessly donated one of her kidneys to save the life of a friend.
Having known Judith in her Ohio days as a young mother, I remember her as a charming friend with an infectiously happy laugh. Although I did not know all the inner feelings she had at the time, I knew that she met her challenges with a philosophical point of view and a wry sense of humor.
Murder as a Call to Love invites the reader to examine his or her own forgiveness issues with a vow to forgive as Judith did. She makes it clear that the need to forgive is not only possible, but necessary. Judith's poetic, powerful, and gripping writing style convinces us that having a spiritual foundation is fundamental to deep personal change.
5 stars A page-turner and an inspiration... February 21, 2012 By Barbara B. Smith
We may not have a murder to forgive, but who can help being vitally interested in the "transformation of suffering?" I am grateful to Judith for so honestly and vividly pointing the way.Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
5 stars Profound and lifechanging February 6, 2012 By Suzannah Tebbe Davis
This thought provoking book seamlessly blends the story of a horrific family murder with the life challenges the author moves through leading to her discovery of mindfulness as a path to forgiveness. An inspiring look at how we can open our hearts to love, even under the most traumatic circumstances. I couldn't put this book down and am inspired to return to my meditation practice.
Once you begin reading "Murder As a Call to Love: A True Story of Transformation and Forgiveness" you won't be able to put it down. This is just one of those books that keeps you turning the pages long after bedtime, and sticks with you long after the last page.
Withholding forgiveness hurts not only our offender but ourselves as well. Although it may feel right or justified we do far more damage to ourselves than to those who have hurt us. In a most beautiful and moving way, this book is a testimony to the process of forgiveness under even the worst of circumstances.
All of us can use the reminder to forgive, and the encouragement to work through the pain of our past, to wipe the slate clean. Sometimes we need to forgive ourselves, at other times we need to forgive others. Easier said than done. However, each of us does posses the inate ability to forgive if we choose to make use of that special blessing. Toy invites us to reconsider what it means to forgive and most importantly, she calls us to forgive. This can start the healing process to even the most damaged relationships.