Letters to Gabriel: The true story of Gabriel Michael Santorum, by Karen Garver Santorum with a foreword by Mother Teresa and an introduction by Dr. Laura Schlessinger ($22.95).

Karen Garver Santorum is the wife of a prominent pro-life senator and mother of three who, when she found out she was expecting her fourth child, decided to write “letters” to her yet-to-be-born child. A horrific twist of fate makes these letters, collected in a short but powerful book, a poignant reminder of the way God works and how faith can help people deal with adversity, especially the loss of a child. Karen Santorum immediately began writing letters to her yet-unnamed child. She describes the excitement that a new child brings to all the family: daddy Rick, sister Elizabeth, brothers Johnny and Daniel, and, of course, mommy. But that excitement soon turns to fear, and rage, and anxiety, and grief.

She experiences an expectant mother’s worst nightmare. After a routine sonogram, Karen is moved to another room where, after a brief inspection, the doctor coldly informs her, “Your baby has a fatal defect and is going to die.”

The motherly instinct comes in, and Karen feels rage for not protecting the fragile life inside her. But, as she writes, “through the tears emerged the most basic parental emotion. We are not going to let you go.” They seek further help.

She must be informed of the options, which include abortion and not doing anything at all, which would just as surely result in the baby’s death. Aborting her baby, she writes, would be like killing her six year old because he has leukemia; it is never an option. Neither is not doing anything. The Santorums choose to do everything they can to save tiny Gabriel Michael, now named after each of the archangels, to give him extra protection.

Throughout these emotional letters, there is clearly a strong faith. The Santorums depend as much – and surely more so – on prayer to help Gabriel and to help themselves. Gabriel is born, a mere 20 weeks old. Complications from what could have been life-saving, in-utero surgery result instead in an early delivery. The story of the two-day-long labour, partly a result of Karen’s refusal to “surrender” her child, is heart-wrenching. Two hours after Gabriel is born, he dies.

Karen wonders why God takes their son from them so soon. She guesses He wants them to speak up for the voiceless, to defend the unborn. The political struggle of Rick Santorum to end partial-birth abortion is barely mentioned, but Karen knows that her husband’s arguments will be even more forceful now.

This book is not a political tract which seeks to move the masses. It is the story of one courageous family and how their faith, and the faith of those around them, helped them through a horrendous ordeal stronger and closer to God.