Today’s team review is from Cathy. She blogs here https://betweenthelinesbookblog.wordpress.com/
Cathy has been reading In This Small Spot by Caren Werlinger
In This Small Spot is a beautifully written and emotional story following the life choices, ups and downs, and introspections of Dr Michele Stewart, a renowned oncology surgeon. Several years after losing her much loved partner, Alice, to cancer, she questions her role as a doctor and her place in the medical profession.
After leaving school Michele (Mickey) toyed with the idea of becoming a nun but decided to go to university and later met Alice. Now, needing something to give her life some meaning she again contemplates the life of a nun. Many conversations with Mother Theodora later, Mickey decides to enter St Bridget’s Abbey as a postulant.
‘Several seconds passed as Mother Theodora searched Mickey’s eyes. “I know you mean that, Mickey. But remember that an abbey is not a place where you can run away from yourself. Quite the contrary. Having stripped away the disguises and distractions of the outside world: clothes, career, material possessions, the true you is most often magnified, for better or for worse.”’
The story is multi-layered, very atmospheric, written with depth and told in the present with flashbacks to Mickey’s life with Alice, showing the kind of woman she was before shock and grief began to chip away at her confidence and belief in her work. She feels the need to re-assess, to try and work out where she belongs, hoping this spiritual journey will help to clarify what is important and the right path to take, even though she’s aware it’s likely to be a struggle.
The characters are wonderfully drawn, complex and in the main sympathetic, finding themselves at St Bridget’s Abbey for various reasons and not all of them, including Mickey, finding it easy. There are questions and sometimes doubts arise. Human emotions are evident — homophobia, envy and intolerance, to name a few — although in some cases tightly controlled. There is drama, bonds formed, humour, love and unexpected and shocking events, along with the structured everyday life of the nuns, which is fascinating.
Mickey is a realistic and relatable character, struggling with her emotions and choices. As time passes she becomes more adaptable and aware, and always ready to help others as the sense of community deepens. But the world outside the abbey creeps in, testing Mickey and forcing her to make choices she wouldn’t have imagined.
I had to sit with this story for a while and it’s one that will stay with me for a good while. I’ve only read one of Caren Werlinger’s books before this one, but it’s something I’ll be rectifying as soon as I can.
“Here, the true you is most often magnified, for better or for worse.” Abbess Theodora
In a world increasingly connected to computers and machines but disconnected to self and others, Dr. Michele Stewart finds herself drowning in a life that no longer holds meaning. Searching for a deeper connection after losing her partner, Alice, she enters a contemplative monastery, living a life dedicated to prayer, to faith in things unseen. Though most of her family and friends are convinced that she has become a nun to run away from her life, she finds herself more attuned to life than she has been in years. Stripped of the things that define most people in the outside world – career, clothing, possessions – she rediscovers a long forgotten part of herself. But sooner than she expects, the outside world intrudes, forcing her to confront doubts and demons she thought she had left behind. The ultimate test of her vocation comes from the unlikeliest source when she finds herself falling in love again. As she struggles to discern where she belongs, she discovers the terrifying truth of Abbess Theodora’s warning. For better or for worse.
Great review, Cathy, and I totally agree. This is such a lovely book, and she is a wonderful writer.
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What an intriguing and unique story line. Makes me wonder about the inspiration.
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This sounds like a compelling story, Cathy. A modern version of The Nun’s Story, which riveted me.
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A few years ago I read The Greenest Branch by PK Adams. It is about the Benedictine abbess Hildegard. That was a good story and is set in the 12th century.
Very compelling. To this day the House of Brede and the Nun’s Story remain my favourite reads. This may have to go on my tbr and moved up pile.
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Oh that’s lovely to hear, two books that I haven’t read, so thanks for the recommendations too.