Monk Upstairs

( 1 )


Heavenly Ever After?

When Rebecca Martin finds the love of her life, it's finally time to cross off one giant task from life's to-do list. But not so fast. The wedding is a minor disaster, the honeymoon doesn't get much better, and then the biggest shock of all—living together as monk and wife.

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The Monk Upstairs

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Heavenly Ever After?

When Rebecca Martin finds the love of her life, it's finally time to cross off one giant task from life's to-do list. But not so fast. The wedding is a minor disaster, the honeymoon doesn't get much better, and then the biggest shock of all—living together as monk and wife.

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Editorial Reviews

Jennifer Lauck
“I am caught and held firm by Tim Farrington’s tender treatment of his characters and their humanity.”
Lolly Winston
“Farrington writes with deft humor and poignancy about human relationships and the quirks of the human heart.”
Spirituality and Health Magazine
"An enjoyable read with interesting and engaging characters who spur us to think more seriously about love, faith, death."
Spirituality and Health magazine
“An enjoyable read with interesting and engaging characters who spur us to think more seriously about love, faith, death.”
Washington Post Book World
“Consistently witty and utterly charming...”
“A rare realistic portrait of a romantic relationship between two complicated, funny, loving adults.”
Spirituality & Health magazine
“An enjoyable read with interesting and engaging characters who spur us to think more seriously about love, faith, death.”
“A rare realistic portrait of a romantic relationship between two complicated, funny, loving adults.”
Washington Post Book World
“Consistently witty and utterly charming...”
Spirituality and Health magazine
“An enjoyable read with interesting and engaging characters who spur us to think more seriously about love, faith, death.”
Ron Charles
&#8230p; Farrington has returned with a sequel called The Monk Upstairs, and, if anything, he concentrates on the function of prayer even more, but he still maintains the same ironic humor that welcomes readers of any religion -- or no religion. Farrington spent a couple of years in his 20s at an ashram in Oakland, Calif., and the Christian theology of his "Monk" novels is deeply moderated by Eastern ideals. Chief among these is the sense that God is an "unfathomable darkness," a harrowing "kind of nowhere" that can be reached only as the world is silenced by stillness. That gloss of mysticism -- devout and yet distinctly unchurchy -- gives these stories a New Age ecumenicalism that's crucial to their broad appeal.
— The Washington Post
Library Journal

How does a couple become a couple, especially when one person has been segregated from society for a long period of time? In a delightful follow-up to The Monk Downstairs, Farrington continues the story of Mike and Rebecca, who are getting married. Mike, a former monk, had been renting from Rebecca when they fell in love. Now, as this novel opens, Rebecca is standing in the back of the church, but there's no groom. Rebecca manages to find him and the ceremony goes off without a hitch. They honeymoon in Hawaii, but Mike is still wrapped up in the contemplative life, rising early to meditate and attend mass. Reconciling his new life with the old one will take some doing. In addition to acclimating as newlyweds, Mike and Rebecca must deal with the impending death of Rebecca's mother. At the same time, Rebecca's daughter, Mary Martha, has asked to join Mike on his trips to early morning mass. This is a fun, lively novel about what happens to a couple after the initial glow of love. Recommended especially for the fans of the author's previous book.
—Robin Nesbitt Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
An aimless sequel to The Monk Downstairs (2002) begins with the marriage of Mike, the former monk, to Rebecca, his artsy landlady. It seems things may not bode well for the couple when Mike is late for the wedding-he was off in the woods praying while the full church was waiting-but Rebecca doesn't seem to mind; she's just glad he hasn't backed out of the nuptials. The two are then off to Hawaii for their honeymoon, where they have a fine time, except when they argue. Once they return to San Francisco, Mike tries to find a job-not easy when you've spent the past 20 years in monastic contemplation-while Rebecca carries on with her graphic-design business and raising seven-year-old sweetie Mary Martha. Sound rather plotless? It is. The few points of conflict-Mike brings Mary Martha to church (despite Rebecca's distrust of Catholicism); ex-husband Rory has demolished their kitchen as part of a remodeling (and pot-induced) "surprise"; Mike displays an inability to engage in normal friendships-are resolved quickly. There are a few references to Mike's kindness, but he, like all the characters, lacks the weight or charisma needed to propel a story dependent on character. The one exception is Rebecca's mother, Phoebe. Having had a stroke, she begins to falter mentally and physically, until she longs for a peaceful death. There is much Bible-quoting, and it is apparent that Farrington is creating a kind of discourse about the place of God in a secular world. Unfortunately, his conduit for the discussion-the bland, embarrassingly self-centered Mike-is a poor choice. Instead, there is a lot of talk about Phoebe reaching a peace with death, and Rebecca accepting the changes in her life. But it'srelayed in so tepid a tone, that it feels more like approaching sleep than meditation. Farrington has offered some lively, character-driven fare in the past; this time around is dismal.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060859565
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/29/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Farrington is the author of Lizzie's War, The Monk Downstairs,—a New York Times Notable Book—and The Monk Upstairs, as well as the critically acclaimed novels The California Book of the Dead and Blues for Hannah.

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First Chapter

The Monk Upstairs
A Novel

Chapter One

Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto Thee.
Thou hast delivered my soul from death:
wilt Thou not deliver my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God in the land of the living?
Psalm 56

It was seven minutes past the appointed hour, and the bridegroom was nowhere to be found. Everyone was trying to put a good face on it, but a certain tension was inevitable. The organist, an ancient monk with a round pink face like a dried pomegranate, was muscling through another round of "On Eagle's Wings." Apparently his repertoire was limited; but the music took on an unsettlingly dirgelike quality the second time through. The guests sat quietly, their small talk long since expended, glancing discreetly at their watches, reading through their programs again as if they might have missed something. Chelsea Burke's baby had begun to cry, in one of the back pews, and the noise was approaching crisis proportions. Abbot Hackley, who was to perform the ceremony, stood at the front of the chapel with his hands folded in front of him, his heavy white chasuble trimmed with dazzling gold, a benediction waiting to happen. The look on his face was determinedly serene and seemed to suggest that this was all in God's plan, but from time to time he would sway a little, as if in a wind. The poor man was in the middle of the third course of some particularly savage clinical trial treatment for colon cancer, and the wedding had been scheduled to avoid the worst of his debilitation postchemotherapy.

Peering through the crack in the door at the backof the chapel, Rebecca reviewed the major decisions of her life and decided that it had been a bizarre lapse of judgment to get married at all, much less at Mike's old monastery. They should have just eloped if they were going to take this mad leap. She had actually, seriously, truly in her heart wanted to do that, to jump in a car and drive up to Lake Tahoe. They could have gotten the damned thing done in some roadside chapel, had a few margaritas and some Mexican food, and been home before anyone was the wiser. But she'd made the mistake of mentioning the plan to her mother, and Phoebe had swung into panicked action and taken charge of constructing a more or less traditional fiasco.

Which was now duly unfolding. Rebecca turned to her mother and said, "I told you—"

"Don't even start," Phoebe said. She sat placidly on a folding chair someone had dug up for her, with the walker she'd been using during her recovery from the stroke she'd had the year before parked beside her. When the time came to process into the church, Phoebe had insisted, she was going to do it without the prop. Rebecca wasn't sure her mother could walk that far unsupported, and the image of Phoebe sprawled halfway up the aisle like a beached fish was not helping her stress level. But there had never been any stopping Phoebe.

"He'll show," Bonnie said. She was the maid of honor; it was her duty to be upbeat. And Bonnie could afford to be generous: her own wedding at Grace Cathedral the previous autumn had gone like extravagant clockwork. "His watch is probably off. Did you make sure he'd reset it at the switch from daylight savings time?"

"That was weeks ago. Surely we'd have known by now if he was running an hour behind the rest of the world." But even as she said it, Rebecca realized that it might not be so. Mike was often enough several hundred years, if not millennia, out of sync with the rest of the world, and he was perfectly capable of losing the stray hour here or there, like a pair of socks kicked under the bed of eternity.

"He's out there praying, or whatever it is he does," Bonnie insisted. "Or having a drink for the road."

"He'll show," Phoebe seconded. "Just relax, sweetheart. The man's a goner."

"If he needs to pray or drink at this point, we shouldn't be doing this," Rebecca said, but she was surrounded by resolute Pollyannas, and she took a deep breath. It was, clearly, a moment to simply exercise her inner resources and cultivate serenity. To Zen out, as Phoebe liked to say. Unfortunately, all that came to mind in terms of spiritual substance was the five Kübler-Ross stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Rebecca had been cruising along in what she thought was acceptance until five minutes ago; but apparently that had just been denial, because she was seething now, in the old familiar way. It felt like she had spent most of her adult life in stage two of grief over her relationships with men.

The back door swung open, and Rebecca's heart leaped instantly into the purest stage five, without transition, but it was her daughter and her ex-husband, who had slipped out to look for Mike. And, it was clear at once, not found him. Mary Martha, looking a bit flushed in her pink flower girl dress with its even pinker ruffled front and puffy sleeves, had an air of uneasy compliance with circumstances beyond her grasp, like a dog on the way to the vet's. Rory looked the way he always looked when he had managed to escape a social gathering for a while, like he had just had two hits of something in the bathroom. He was wearing his only suit, the blue off-the-rack thing he kept on a hook for court appearances.

The Monk Upstairs
A Novel
. Copyright © by Tim Farrington. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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    Posted December 16, 2014

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