Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

Pasadena native Mary Lea Carroll has written two engaging books on saints. The first, Saint Everywhere: Travels in Search of the Lady Saints, came out in 2019. In it, she travels among other places to Siena (St. Catherine), Prague (Infant Jesus) and  Medjugorje (Our Lady of Peace).

This year, just in time for Christmas, comes Somehow Saints: More Travels in Search of the Saintly. The publisher, Prospect Park Books, is based in Altadena, making this small attractive volume altogether “locally grown.”  

“Somehow Saints” is no Pilgrim’s Progress. Carroll is not the type (nor am I) to undergo the three-day ordeal of fasting, walking barefoot and prayer known as St. Patrick’s Purgatory; nor to crawl two miles up a hill on her knees to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City.

To her great credit, in fact, she never pretends to be anything other than exactly what she is: a suburban wife and mother with a beautiful home, a husband retired from a comfortable job, three grown kids, a yard full of rosebushes, and eyelash extensions. She likes boutique hotels, good coffee, fine restaurants, and shopping.

Also to her great credit—and this is what elevates “Somehow Saints” above a mere stocking-stuffer— Carroll is a born traveler: comfortable talking to strangers, willing to follow up on possible dead-end leads, always ready for an adventure. She goes out of her way to talk to the people she meets along the way: cabbies, bartenders. She’s curious, persistent, and a genuine seeker.