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The cloister walk
Kathleen Norris
Adult Nonfiction BX2435 .N57 1996

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From Publishers' Weekly:

The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait‘one of the most vibrant since Merton's‘of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

"The monastery has been a haven where I could come, and stay a while, and work things out," poet Norris writes in her latest work of nonfiction since she explored the landscape of her imagination in Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (LJ 12/92). Norris spent two nine-month terms as an oblate, or associate, at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota; though raised Protestant, she came to understand that "for years literature had seemed an adequate substitute for religion in my life." Racked by marital strife and weary of the "literary hothouse" of the big city when she arrives, Norris finds the liturgical rhythms of the community of monks restorative and delights in the lectio continua, or continual reading through of the books of the Bible, especially the "ancient poetry" of the Psalms. Her narrative is structured as a diary, punctuated by thoughtful meditations about virgin saints or Emily Dickinson and startling examples of spirituality in the "real world." Whether she is sharing the brothers', and sisters', views on the challenge and freedom of celibacy, or the private letter of her "borderline" sister, Norris marvelously and with dignity conveys "the great human task‘to learn to live, and love, and die." A courageous, heartening work; for all libraries. [Norris was once an LJ reviewer; see "Kathleen Norris: A Spiritual Geography," LJ 1/94, p. 59.‘Ed.]‘Amy Boaz, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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