Changing Habits

Changing Habits

by Debbie Macomber
3.8 88

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Overview

Changing Habits by Debbie Macomber

They were sisters once.

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….

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778313151
Publisher: MIRA Books
Publication date: 01/31/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 361,978
Product dimensions: 5.52(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.03(d)

About the Author

Debbie Macomber is a #1 New York Times bestselling author and a leading voice in women's fiction worldwide. Her work has appeared on every major bestseller list, with more than 170 million copies in print, and she is a multiple award winner. The Hallmark Channel based a television series on Debbie's popular Cedar Cove books. For more information, visit her website, www.debbiemacomber.com.

Hometown:

Port Orchard, Washington

Date of Birth:

October 22, 1948

Place of Birth:

Yakima, Washington

Education:

Graduated from high school in 1966; attended community college

Read an Excerpt

"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 ofjoy 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."

"Si, 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. "Yes, Daddy."

"You're going to be a good Catholic girl," he said again. "You'll make your mother proud."

At that Angie smiled, even though she dreamed of being a cowgirl when she grew up so she could ride the range with Hopalong Cassidy. Her hero didn't look Italian but she made him so in her dreams and he ate at her father's restaurant and said it was the best food he'd ever tasted.

In 1948, by the time Angelina entered the third grade, she wore her thick black hair in two long braids that her father dutifully plaited each morning at the breakfast table. He put down the newspaper, giving his full attention to her hair, and when he'd finished, he carefully inspected his daughter. It was the same ritual every morning. Awaiting his approval, Angie would stand tall and straight, arms held stiffly at her sides. She wore her blue-and-gray-plaid school uniform with the pleated skirt and bib front and anxiously awaited her father's nod, telling her she'd passed muster.

"Smile," he instructed on this particular day.

Angie obediently did as he said.

"You're as beautiful as your mother. Now eat your breakfast."

Angie slipped into the chair, bowed her head and made the sign of the cross before and after grace, which she said aloud. Then she reached for her spoon. She hesitated when she noticed her father's frown. Studying him closely, she wondered what she'd done wrong. The worst thing she could imagine would be to disappoint her father. He was her world and she was his—other than the restaurant, of course.

"It's nothing, bambina," he reassured her in gentle tones.

"I just hope your mother forgives me for feeding you cold cereal."

"I like cold cereal."

Her father nodded, distracted by the newspaper, which he folded back and propped against the sugar canister while Angie ate her breakfast.

"I want to leave early this morning," she told him, struggling to hold back her excitement. "Sister Trinita said I could sing with the fifth- and sixth-graders at Mass." This was a privilege beyond anything Angie had ever been granted. Only the older children were permitted to enter the choir loft at St. Gabriel's, but Sister Trinita, the fifth-grade teacher, was her special friend. She chaperoned the children who attended Mass at St. Gabriel's every morning before school—children who rustled and fidgeted and talked.

Angie knew it was important to show respect in church. Her father had taught her that and never allowed her to whisper or fuss during Mass. She might not understand the Latin words, but she'd learned what they meant, and she loved the atmosphere of the church itself—the lighted tapers, the stained glass windows and shining wood, the Stations of the Cross telling their sacred story. Sister Trinita had commented one morning, as the children streamed out of the church and hurried toward the school, that she was impressed with Angie's respectful behavior.

That first time Sister had spoken to her, Angie knew she'd found a friend. After school the same day, she'd visited Sister Trinita's classroom and volunteered to wash the blackboards. Sister let her, even though Angie was only in third grade.

After that, Angie used every excuse she could invent to visit Sister Trinita. Soon she was lingering in the school yard after classes until she saw Sister leave. Then Angie would race to the nun's side so she could walk Sister back to the convent house, which was situated across the street. Sister Trinita looked for Angie, too. She knew, because the nun would smile in welcome whenever Angie hurried toward her. It became her habit to walk Sister Trinita home.

"You're going to sing with the choir?" her father asked, raising his eyes from the newspaper.

Angie nodded, so excited she could barely contain her glee. "I like Sister Trinita."

"Good."

His curt nod told Angie that he approved.

Scooping up the last of her Cheerios, she set aside her spoon and wondered if she should tell him that she'd started waiting for Sister Trinita outside the convent door each morning. She walked Sister to the church and then slipped into the pew where the third-graders sat.

"Sister Trinita says I'm her favorite." She hesitated, waiting for her father's reaction.

"Who is Sister Trinita?" her father asked unexpectedly. "Tell me again."

"The fifth-grade teacher. I hope I'm in her class when I'm in fifth grade."

He nodded slowly, obviously pleased with her acceptance by this nun. Pleased, too, with her daily attendance at Mass—even though he himself didn't like going. He went to Mass on Sundays because he'd promised her mother he would. Angie knew that. He'd made a deathbed promise to the wife he'd so desperately loved. A man of his word, Tony Marcello faithfully escorted Angie to church each and every Sunday and on holy days.

At night when he returned from the restaurant and sent the housekeeper home, he drilled Angie on her catechism questions. And on the anniversary of her mother's death, they knelt before the crucifix in the living room and said the rosary together. At the name of Jesus, they would bow their heads.

This morning, her father smiled as he drank the rest of his coffee. "Ready?" he asked. "If my little girl's going to sing in the choir, then I'll have to get you to church early."

"Ready." With her braids flapping against her navy blue uniform sweater, Angie grabbed her books, her Hopalong Cassidy lunch bucket, and reached for her father's hand.

For two years, Angelina Marcello walked Sister Trinita to and from the convent each weekday. It broke her heart when Sister was transferred to another school in 1950, the year she entered fifth grade. Angie had turned ten.

After a while Angie stopped thinking about Sister Trinita, but she never forgot the nun from the order of St. Bridget's Sisters of the Assumption—the woman who had lavished her with attention when she'd most needed it.

In the summer of 1953, her father enrolled her in St. Mary's School for Girls. She would always remember that he sang "That's Amore" as he drove her home following her interview with Sister St. George.

"Your mother would be proud of what a fine young lady you are," he told her, stopping at the restaurant on the way home.

At age fourteen, Angie was waiting tables during the summer and cooking with her father, along with Mario Deccio, the chef. She knew the recipes as well as she did her own name. The restaurant was her life—until her senior year in high school.

Everything changed then.

"You want to do this?" her father asked, reading the senior class permission slip for the annual retreat. He looked at her carefully. "You want to travel to Boston for this retreat?"

"It's just for the weekend," Angie explained. "Every graduating class goes away for retreat."

"At a convent?"

"Yes. Sister St. George said it was a contemplative time before we graduate and take our place in the world."

Her father read over the permission slip again. "You know your place, and that's right here next to me at Angelina's."

"Everyone's going," Angie protested.

"All the girls in your class?" He sounded skeptical.

"Yes." She wasn't entirely sure that was true, but Angie wanted to be part of this retreat. After attending twelve years of parochial school, she was curious. Convent life was so secretive, and she didn't want to lose this one opportunity to see it from the inside.

"All right, you can go," her father reluctantly agreed.

He was right, of course; her future was set. She would join him at the restaurant and cook or wait tables, whatever was needed. The restaurant was the only life she knew, and its familiarity a continuing comfort.

Early that June, St. Mary's School for Girls' senior class left by charter bus for Boston and the motherhouse of St. Bridget's Sisters of the Assumption. It was three weeks before graduation. The first thing Angie felt when the bus pulled up to the convent was a sense of serenity. The three-story brick structure was surrounded by a tall fence and well-maintained grounds. While traffic sped by on the busy streets surrounding the convent, inside the wrought-iron gates there was tranquility. Angie didn't know if her friends felt it, but she did.

Friday evening the sisters served dinner.

"They aren't going to eat with us?" Sheila Jones leaned close and asked Angie. Sheila and Dorothy French were An-gie's two best friends.

"Haven't you ever noticed?" Dorothy whispered. "Nuns never eat with laypeople."

Angie hadn't noticed, hadn't thought about it until then. "I wonder if they've ever tasted pizza," Dorothy said. "Of course they have," Angie insisted. "They eat the same food as everyone else."

"I wouldn't be so sure of that," Sheila murmured. Angie wondered. She couldn't imagine life without pizza and fettuccine Alfredo and a dozen other dishes. These were the special recipes her father had entrusted to her care.

Later that evening, Angie was intrigued by the Spartan cell she'd been assigned for the weekend. The floors were bare, as were the walls, except for a crucifix that hung above the bed. One small window took up a portion of the outside wall, but it was too high to see out of and only allowed in a glimmer of sunlight. The single bed had a thin mattress and the bed stand could hold a lamp and a prayer book, but little else.

That first night when Angie climbed into bed, the sheets felt rough and grainy against her skin. She'd expected to fall asleep almost instantly, but her mind spun in ten different directions. This was holy ground, where she slept—holy ground on which she walked. Women who had dedicated their lives to the service of God had once slept in this room. This wasn't something to be taken lightly, she realized. She finally fell into a deep sleep sometime after midnight.

The second day of the retreat included an hour of solitary prayer. Each girl was to spend time alone to assess her calling in life. No talking was permitted, but they could speak to one of the sisters if they desired. Angie took pains to avoid her friends because it would be too easy to break silence.

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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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