Book Review

Murder as a Call to Love

By Judith Toy




Review By: Bobbe Allender

Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect things as they really are….
Thich Nhat Hanh

As I sat down to write this review, the phone rang: a friend whose sister’s 19-year-old stepson committed an act of violence followed by suicide. We never know when violence will enter our lives, but facing violence is always easier if we have found the healing of inner peace.   Judith Toy brings this into perspective.  By relating her own healing journey after receiving the call about the murder of three beloved family members, she walks us out the other side into a new world of Love, Peace and Forgiveness.
When I saw the title of Judith’s book, I wondered, “Why, would I want to read about murder?  How can that connect to Love?” Yet, when I received the call to read and review her book, I jumped at the chance and I hope you will also. 
I spent most of my adult years just outside of Countytown, Pennsylvania. The Toys and I share many mutual friends, and, since I was still living in Coyle County when the murders happened, the memories refreshed like a flashback. Reading the book opened my eyes to so many aspects of such a life-changing event that, as an outsider to the intimacy, I could not possibly realize. 
The book also is a memoir of Judith’s life story, a critical part of the whole. The life trials and tribulations that haunted her youth into adulthood brought her to that climatic day when the phone call came that changed her life.
Walking through any death is never easy, but burying three family members in one day is life changing, crushing, unthinkable. How do you get up and walk on? With all the human weaknesses that Judith has lived through, she has always remained a strong, determined woman seeking resolution.
Out of the darkness arose a teacher. A friend invited Judith to join her at a Quaker Meetinghouse in Oldtown, Pennsylvania.  Patricia Dai-En Bennage, a Soto Zen sect teacher, stood tall and quiet, her inner peace radiating through the standing-room only meetinghouse. Judith felt the quiet settle into her as she listened to Dai-En, “I was trained by a recluse Rinzai Zen master I encountered during a pilgrimage on the island of Shikoku. . . .  I carried the official pilgrim’s staff equipped with a bell, which doubles as a walking stick for circumambulating the rocky, mountainous island on foot.” Judith was captivated.
As the evening progressed, Dai-En said exactly what Judith needed to hear, “In Zen there is no waiting: you sit, you drop yourself, and you are in the middle of paradise. All you need to do is become mindful of the greatest gift we have, and that gift is our breath.” Judith knew she had found her center, her way back to reality, true healing, and moving forward to the goal: Love.
Judith became the first apprentice of Dai-En, a deep and settling experience, a new adventure into simplicity and letting go.  A few years later, Thich Nhat Hanh became a gentle master in Judith and husband Philip’s lives.  Their study path resulted in their ordination by Thay (pronounced Tie) and in an active prison ministry.  They now live here in Western North Carolina where at Cloud Cottage Sangha they host regular Sangha, dharma study groups, and retreats healing themselves and others in the peaceful mountains.
Yes, reading Murder as a Call to Love will help all of us grow.
The book is available through:;; on as a softcover book and as an e-book. 
The official book launch and reading of Murder as a Call to Love will be at 2 PM at Jubilee! Community Church on Sunday, Jan. 22. They will have live flute, digeridoo and voice, plus the ‘F’ word–forgiveness–exhibit from the UK.

Bobbe Allender now lives in Black Mountain. She is a writer and editor who found her personal healing in the mountains that we are all honored to be surrounded by.

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