Book Review: Anam Ċara

Anam Ċara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World by John O’Donohue is a book which is intended to be an oblique mirror where we might come to glimpse the presence, power, and beauty of both inner and outer friendship.1

John O’Donohue was born in Ireland and spoke Irish as his native language. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul, and ċara is the word for friend. So anam ċara means soul friend. In the Celtic tradition, the anam ċara was a person to whom you could reveal the hidden intimacies of your life.2

John O’Donohue writes that friendship is a creative and subversive force.3 He describes friendship as an act of recognition and belonging.4 Your forgotten, or neglected, inner wealth begins to reveal itself in the belonging between soul friends. The soul is the house of belonging, and the body is in the soul.5

Where you are understood,
you are at home

John O’Donohue not only explores outer friendship, but also the art of inner friendship. Solitude awakens new creativity within us. And when our inner lives can befriend the outer world of work, new imagination is awakened and great changes can take place.7 It is, however, very difficult to bring the world of work and the world of soul together.

Work […] should be an arena of
possibility and real expression

John O’Donohue contemplates our friendship with the harvest time of life, old age. He even reflects on death as the invisible companion who walks the road of life with us from birth.9

The book is a broad and deep reflection on friendship. John O’Donohue takes his inspiration from his Irish heritage. The book is, in essence, an inner conversation with Celtic imagination and its spirituality of friendship.10 It’s a beautifully written book full of wisdom. I will return to the book again and again!

1 John O’Donohue, Anam Ċara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World (Bantam Books, 1997), p15.
2 Ibid., p16.
3 Ibid., p15.
4 Ibid., p16.
5 Ibid., p17.
6 Ibid., p36.
7 Ibid., p17.
8 Ibid., p169.
9 Ibid., p18.
10 Ibid., p19.


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