The Cloister Walk

The Cloister Walk

4.1 12
by Kathleen Norris
     
 

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A New York Times bestseller for 23 weeks
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"A strange and beautiful book...Part memoir, part meditation, it is a remarkable piece of writing." -The Boston Globe

"The Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge, wise heart...Norris resonates deeply for a lot of people:… See more details below

Overview

A New York Times bestseller for 23 weeks
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"A strange and beautiful book...Part memoir, part meditation, it is a remarkable piece of writing." -The Boston Globe

"The Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge, wise heart...Norris resonates deeply for a lot of people: She's one of those writers who demands to be handed around. You want to share this great discovery, giving her work as a gift3/4or you simply shove a copy in the face of a friend, saying 'Read this.'" -Minneapolis Star-Tribune

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\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.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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.)
Library Journal
Norris's acuity, writing talent, and ten years as an oblate at a Catholic Benedictine monastery have well equipped her to enlighten outsiders to the true ways and spirit of monastic life or, as she refers to it, the real world. Norris, a Protestant, describes how community life is the essence of humanity and celibacy an opportunity for transformation. She demonstrates the applicability of ancient scriptures and liturgies to modern times and tells how daily psalm-reading and prayer, ceremonies, and rituals helped her to overcome depression and gain inner peace. Norris, herself a poet, draws many parallels between the monastic and the poet, both of whom are fine-tuned to see the sacred potential in all things. Actress Debra Winger reads Norris's refreshing and highly inspirational book. For popular spirituality collections.Barbara J. Vaughan, State Univ. Coll. at Buffalo Lib., N.Y.
Donna Seaman
This exquisite chronicle of spiritual discovery, which begins with the dawn, ends with the night, and spans a liturgical year, picks up where Norris' highly acclaimed "Dakota" (1992) left off. Here she delves even more deeply into the source of her initially "incomprehensible" attraction to the Benedictine order. Why would a poet and a married woman, raised as a Protestant and long disaffected with the church, find solace and inspiration in the monastic life? In the process of answering this question, Norris reassesses the profound significance of community, ritual, and symbol. As she describes Benedictine liturgy and how hearing Scripture read aloud fine-tunes the soul, she discerns the alignment of imagination and faith, of "monastic practice and the discipline of writing." Poets, Norris explains, like men and women of the church, are devoted to recognizing and celebrating the sacredness of life. Norris expands upon this insight as she considers celibacy, virgin martyrs, metaphor, marriage, the poetry of Emily Dickinson, and the benefits of living intentionally rather than casually. A deeply moving encounter with the heart and mind of a writer devoted to the highest level of inquiry.
Molly McQuade
She writes about religion with the imagination of a poet...the story of her faith is attractively incongruous, and more than a little receptive to rebellion...some bridling is worth it to a reader when a writer is as original as Norris, a Midwestern, late-twentieth-century mystic. -- Chicago Tribune
Robert Coles
Ms. Norris is subtle and shrewd...in The Cloister Walk, persisting in her wonderfully idiosyncratic ways, she gives us the result of an immersion into a liturgical world...Most of all, naturally, these pages offer the voice of Kathleen Norris, a person of modern sensibility who dares leap across time and space to make the interests and concerns of any number of reflective thinkers her own...She is one of history's writing pilgrims to offer a contemporary American one. Boldly willing to foresake any number of corporal trends and preoccupations in favor of this Walk, this searching expedition within herself. -- The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101215661
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/01/1997
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
162,955
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

THE CLOISTER WALK
by Kathleen Norris

 

INTRODUCTION

This reading group guide has been created to enhance your group's enjoyment of The Cloister Walk, which can be read as a chronicle of spiritual discovery or as a meditation, like daily passages of scripture. We hope it will prove to be a valuable accompaniment to Kathleen Norris's unique work --- "a gift of insight... one of those rare books too rich to race through" (The Kansas City Star).

Part memoir, part meditation, The Cloister Walk is the movingly written and thought-provoking record of a married, Protestant woman's time spent in a community of men in a traditional Benedictine monastery in Minnesota. Any reader seeking a meaningful life - not necessarily a religious one - will be inspired by author Kathleen Norris's experiences among monks who, while so little understood in our society, are admirable bearers of tradition, incorporating in their lives the values of stability, silence, and humility that we so desperately need, yet relentlessly avoid. An award-winning poet, Kathleen Norris brings her appreciation for language and metaphor to the reading of Bible, especially the psalms, and shares the way she slowly, sometimes painfully, "let words work the earth of her heart." Gradually she learns much about simplicity, patience, forgiveness, the value of community, and the responsibility of freedom. It is in the sanctuary of the cloister that she at last achieves healing - finding peace in her sometimes troubled marriage and gaining a new understanding of her challenging life in the outside world. Above all, she discovers the force of spirituality and the beneficial change it can effect - that "love can be the center of all things, if only we will keep it there."

 

ABOUT KATHLEEN NORRIS

Praise

p>Related Titles

If you enjoyed The Cloister Walk, you'll want to read these other works by Kathleen Norris, all available from Riverhead.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. In the book's preface, author Kathleen Norris admits that in the past she has employed literature as a substitute for religion in her life (p. xvii). What are the similarities for her between a writing apprenticeship and a spiritual quest? Why does the latter prove so much more fulfilling? What other things do people use as replacements for religion, and why do you think they so often fall short of the kind of life epitomized by the Benedictines?

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