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Changing Habits

Changing Habits

3.8 88
by Debbie Macomber

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In a more innocent time, three girls enter the convent. Angelina, Kathleen and Joanna come from very different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common—the desire to join a religious order.

Despite the seclusion of the convent house in Minneapolis, they're not immune to what's happening around them, and each sister faces an unexpected crisis of faith.


In a more innocent time, three girls enter the convent. Angelina, Kathleen and Joanna come from very different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common—the desire to join a religious order.

Despite the seclusion of the convent house in Minneapolis, they're not immune to what's happening around them, and each sister faces an unexpected crisis of faith. Ultimately Angie, Kathleen and Joanna all leave the sisterhood, abandoning the convent for the exciting and confusing world outside. The world of choices to be made, of risks to be taken. Of men and romantic love. The world of ordinary women…

Debbie Macomber illuminates women's lives with truth and with compassion. In Changing Habits, she proves once again why she's one of the world's most popular writers of fiction for—and about—women.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Debbie Macomber is...a bona fide superstar." -Publishers Weekly

Debbie Macomber writes characters who are as warm and funny as your best friends."

-New York Times bestselling author Susan Wiggs

"Debbie Macomber is one of the most reliable, versatile romance authors around."

-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"As always, Macomber draws rich, engaging characters."

-Publishers Weekly

"Macomber is a master storyteller; any one of these characters could have been a stereotype in less talented hands. Instead, these women and their stories are completely absorbing."

-RT Book Reviews on The Shop on Blossom Street

"Macomber's assured storytelling and affirming narrative is as welcoming as your favorite easy chair."

-Publishers Weekly on Twenty Wishes

"Macomber's latest...glows with genuine goodness and great emotional warmth."
—John Charles, Chicago Tribune on Hannah's List

"Debbie Macomber tells women's stories in a way no one else does."

"Macomber is an adept storyteller...many will be entertained by this well-paced story about four women finding happiness and fulfillment through their growing friendship."
—Publishers Weekly on The Shop on Blossom Street

Publishers Weekly
Macomber (Between Friends; Navy Wife) covers familiar emotional ground in an unusual setting, giving readers a glimpse of life in a Minneapolis convent. In the early 1960s, three young women find themselves taking vows: Angelina Marcello, answering what she believes to be God's call; Kathleen O'Shaughnessy, who is following the urging of her devout parents; and Joanna Baird, who is fleeing heartbreak (her fianc arrived home from a tour in Vietnam with a pregnant Vietnamese bride a month before their planned wedding). They initially find fulfillment in service-Joanna as a nurse, Angelina as a home economics teacher, Kathleen as an elementary school teacher-but as the years pass, each confronts a crisis of faith that she cannot resolve within the convent walls. In the early 1970s, they return to secular life to face a society that has changed dramatically in the previous decade, particularly in relations between men and women. The premise is inventive, but the challenges the sisters face-a young student's back-alley abortion, an alcoholic priest, encounters with violent and lascivious men-are predictable, and Macomber gives them stock treatment. The development of the women's friendship occurs off the page, so that it seems jarring when they reminisce like soul mates at a reunion years later, with families in tow. Macomber's historical research about the Second Vatican Council and church politics is seamlessly woven into the story and adds badly needed depth to the novel. Author tour. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

Changing Habits

Chapter One

Kathleen waited in the cold rain of a Seattle winter as her brother placed her suitcase in the trunk of his car. She felt as awkward and disoriented as she probably looked, standing there in her unfashionable wool coat and clumsy black shoes. For the last ten years she'd been Sister Kathleen, high school teacher and part-time bookkeeper for St. Peter's parish in Minneapolis. Her identity had been defined by her vocation.

Now she was simply Kathleen. And all she'd managed to accumulate in her years of service was one flimsy suitcase and a wounded heart. She had no savings, no prospects and no home. For the first time in her life, she was completely on her own.

"I'll do whatever I can to help you," Sean said, opening the car door for her.

"You already have." Tears stung her eyes as her brother backed out of his driveway. She'd spent the last two months living at his house, a small brick bungalow in this quiet neighborhood. "I can't thank you enough," she whispered, not wanting him to hear the emotion in her voice.

"Mom and Dad want you to come home."

"I can't." How did a woman who was nearly thirty years old go home? She wasn't a teenager who'd been away at school, a girl who could easily slip back into her childhood life.

"They'd never think of you as a burden, if that's what you're worried about," her brother said.

Perhaps not, but Kathleen was a disappointment to her family and she knew it. She didn't have the emotional strength to answer her parents' questions. Dealing with her new life was complicated enough.

"You're going to be all right," Sean assured her.

"I know." But Kathleen didn't entirely believe it. The world outside the convent was a frightening place. She didn't know what to expect or how to cope with all the changes that were hurtling toward her.

"You can call Loren or me anytime."

"Thank you." She swallowed hard.

Ten minutes later, Sean pulled up in front of the House of Peace, a home run by former nuns who helped others make the often-difficult transition from religious to secular life.

Kathleen stared at the large two-story white house. There was a trimmed laurel hedge on either side of the narrow walk-way that led to the porch. She saw the welcoming glow of lamplight in the windows, dispersing a little of the day's gloom.

Still, she missed the order and ritual of her life. There was a certain comfort she hadn't appreciated: rising, praying and eating, all in perfect synchronization with the day before. Freedom, unfamiliar as it was, felt frightening. Confusing.

With her brother at her side, Kathleen walked up the steps, held her breath and then, after a long moment, pressed the doorbell. Someone must have been on the other side waiting, because it opened immediately.

"You must be Kathleen." A woman of about sixty with short white hair and a pleasantly round figure greeted her.

"I'm Kay Dickson. We spoke on the phone."

Kathleen felt warmed by Kay's smile.

"Come in, come in." The other woman held open the door for them.

Sean hesitated as he set down Kathleen's suitcase. "I should be getting back home." His eyes questioned her, as if he was unsure about leaving his sister at this stranger's house.

"I'll be fine," she told him, and in that instant she knew it was true.

"Angie, come here," her father called in heavily accented English. "Taste this." He held out a wooden spoon dripping with rich marinara sauce.

Obediently Angelina put her mouth over the spoon and closed her eyes, distinguishing the different spices and flavors as they met her tongue. "Not enough basil. You should add fresh chopped parsley, too."

Her father roared with approval. "You're right!" He tossed the spoon into the restaurant's large stainless steel sink. Then he reached for eight-year-old Angie and lifted her high in the air before hugging her tightly. It was 1948, and Angie's world revolved around her father and, of course, the family-owned business, the restaurant named after her. It was a well-known fact that Angelina's served the finest Italian food in all of Buffalo, New York.

Unlike other children her age, Angie's first memories weren't of being plopped on Santa's knee in some department store for a candy cane and a photograph. Instead, she recalled the pungent scent of garlic simmering in extra-virgin olive oil and the soft hum as her mother bustled about the kitchen. Those were the warm years, the good years, during the big war, before her mother died in 1945.

Sometimes, late at night, she'd heard giggles coming from her parents' bedroom. She liked the sound and cuddled up in her thick blankets, her world secure despite all the talk of what was taking place an ocean away.

Then her beautiful mother who sang her songs and loved her so much was suddenly gone; she'd died giving birth to Angie's stillborn brother. For a while, any hint of joy and laughter disappeared from the house. A large black wreath hung on the front door, and people stopped, stared and shook their heads as they walked past.

Only five years old, Angie didn't understand where her mother had vanished, nor did it make sense when strangers crowded into her home. She was even more confused by the way they put their heads together and whispered as if she wasn't supposed to hear. A few wept openly, stopping abruptly when she entered the room.

All Angie understood was that her mother was gone and her father, her fun-loving, gregarious father, had grown quiet and serious and sad.

"You're going to be a good Catholic girl," he told her soon after her mother's death. "I promised your mother I'd raise you in the Church."

"Sé, Papa. "

"Use English," he insisted. "We live in America."

"Yes, Daddy."

"I'll take you to Mass every Sunday, just like your mother wanted."

Angie listened intently.

"And when you start first grade you'll attend St. Gabriel, so the nuns can teach you."

She nodded; her father made this sound like a promise.

"It's just you and me now, Angelina," he whispered.


Excerpted from Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Debbie Macomber has more than 100 million copies of her books in print, and her stories about home and family have a worldwide audience and have been translated into twenty-three languages. In addition to being a #1 New York Times bestseller in fiction many times over, she also has an enormous following among knitters as the author of dozens of pattern and craft books. In 2008, she launched a branded line of knitting products through Leisure Arts, the company that publishes her knitting guides. Debbie and her husband, Wayne, have four children and nine grandchildren, and split their time between Washington State and Florida. This is Debbie’s second picture book co-authored with Mary Lou Carney; their first, The Truly Terribly Horrible Sweaer . . . That Grandma Knit, was published in 2009.

Trini Alvarado's film credits include The Perez Family, Little Women, Stella and The Babe. On stage she played Melinda in Broadway's Runaways and appeared off-Broadway in Yours, Anne and Godspell.

Brief Biography

Port Orchard, Washington
Date of Birth:
October 22, 1948
Place of Birth:
Yakima, Washington
Graduated from high school in 1966; attended community college

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Changing Habits 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 88 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recommend this book highly. It gives a great insight to religious life during the 70's. Three stories in one with characters that are warm and pull you into their lives and make you wish you knew them personally. Although the stories of each woman are seperate and distinct they are also inter-twined with each other. The supporting characters add a great deal to the understanding of each of the main characters. You will root for them and cry for them and be totally satisfied with the ending.
Anya_Cohen More than 1 year ago
Coming from a reader who went into vocational ministry as a young woman and then left a few years later, I can relate to Debbie's characters: their reasons for going in, their passion for their calling, and then their confusion when life starts breaking down around them. Although my departure from the ministry had nothing to do with Vatican II (I'm much younger than that!), learning to navigate a culture that you've been sequestered away from is a common experience for those who have been in and then left religious ministry. This is a wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a Debbie Macomber fan, but this was not one of her best books. I was quite disappointed!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not my usual subject matter, but I've come to love any book by Macomber. She does excellent relationships--no matter who or what the circumstances. I ended up not being able to put this down, even though I usually crave more hard-edged material.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Changing Habits is the 70th stand-alone novel by popular American author, Debbie Macomber. It follows the lives of three women of different ages from their first awareness of a vocation to serve God in the order of St Bridget’s Sisters of the Assumption, through their profession as nuns and their lives in the religious order to their eventual rejection of vows and return to secular life. The period from 1958 to 1972 was a time of great upheaval in the Catholic Church and also saw major changes in the secular world: Macomber uses these changes to anchor her story’s era and to show some of the effect these changes had on the lives of women in the convent. Angelina Marcello joined the order against the wishes of her widowed father, an Italian restaurant owner who always saw her as inheriting the business; Kathleen O’Shaughnessy knew from a very young age that she would be a nun, something that was simply accepted in her family; Joanna Baird turned to God when her fiancé came home from the Vietnam war with a pregnant Vietnamese wife by his side. Eventually, these three very different women meet at a convent in Minneapolis. Soon enough they are facing issues that lead them into disillusionment and dissatisfaction with their lives, and a crisis of faith. This novel is quite a departure from Macomber’s romances, and is more reminiscent of her Cedar Cove and Blossom Street series: her main characters are strong women dealing with life-changing issues. Alcoholism, rape, teen pregnancy and abortion feature, and the Catholic Church’s paternalistic mindset, in particular with birth control, plays a significant part. Macomber has certainly done her research on the Catholic religion: those educated or raised in the Catholic faith will recognise many of the practices described. While the endings for each character are fairly predictable, this is still an interesting read. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, I found it hard to follow. I felt that I was constantly missing something... I didn't enjoy it, and found that I was disappointed by the author. Because of the adult content, I felt that this book is suitable for ages 14 and up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a heart wrenching story. There were times when I cried and times when I laught. I am a real Debbie Macomber fan. She makes me think that the stories are really happening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was pretty good. I don't know much about the Catholic church so it was interesting reading about these 3 women's lives as they decided to enter the convent, lived as nuns for a number of years and later left the order for varying reasons. One girl decided to become a nun at only 6 years old, another when she was a senior in high school after a visit to the convent and the last after her fiance' came home from Vietnam with a pregnant Vietnamese wife. During the time period covered in the book, there were many nuns and priests leaving the church and this covers just a few of the reasons for their departures...
harstan More than 1 year ago
In the 1960s, three young women from diverse lifestyles enter St. Peter¿s Parrish in Minneapolis with the belief they are destined to become nuns. Angelina Marcello, Kathleen O¿Shaunessy, and Joanna Baird had different reasons for becoming ¿Brides of Christ¿, but shared an idealism to serve God and help the community....................... In 1972 the three nuns struggle with crisis of faith. For Sister Angelina, it was the simple failure of the Church to deal with the problems of a pregnant teen Corrine that sent her back to her father¿s restaurant. Temporarily taking over the accounting journal led Sister Kathleen to Father Brian Doyle with both wrestling between their vows and a very human love for one another. For Sister Joanna, the return of Viet Nam vet Dr. Tim Murray reminds her that she joined for the wrong reasons as she begins to fall in love with the still recovering medical practitioner. Will the church lose three more dedicated people or will the vows prove strong enough to keep these Sisters within the fold?................................. CHANGING HABITS is not the typical fare from Debbie Macomber, but is an insightful look at some of the problems the modern day Catholic Church is confronting in America. The story line is well written as the trio of nuns seems so genuine and human. The support cast enables the audience to understand their motives from entry into the Church until the individual crisis of faith occurs. Readers will feel strongly what each one of the Sisters contends with as Ms. Macomber powerfully focuses on the critical loss of nuns facing the Church today................... Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy read. Enjoyable charactors. Felt as if i was part of the story.
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readerfromBelfordNJ More than 1 year ago
I can't write yet because I'm in the beginning, but THREE PAGES here of "no text provided for this review" So why do you allow this? It doesn't tell anyone anything at all. Whey did they even write, but more importantly why do you print these nothings?
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PDX_reader_Jane More than 1 year ago
Kept me engaged until the end. I couldn't wait to see how the 3 women settled their lives!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the book I could read it over and over. I recommend this book to anyone who like stories about faith
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THis book touched home in many ways, information was soooo true to fact. Loved it just like all of her books. Macomber writes the best, I am hooked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love her writing but this one was just ok. I generally can't put her books down but this one was not a page turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read over 30 of Debbie Macomber books including 2 of her series of books and just loved them! This is the only book of hers I've read that I just don't care for. Funny thing is I can't put my finger on exactly what I don't like - It just did not seem like her writing. I did get a better look at the Catholic faith and that was interesting... So looking forward to her new series coming up this fall! She is still my favorite author!~
Grams1DM More than 1 year ago
Being a huge fan of Debbie Macomber, I found this book very enjoyable. It is a story of three girls, Angelina, Kathleen and Joanna, all from different backgrounds who decide to join the convent and serve God. Each will face some sort of crisis that will question their reasoning for becoming a nun. These three girls all become friends at the convent house in Minneapolis. A lot will happen in their lives that lead to only one conclusion-leaving the sisterhood. Hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did.
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