The Scent of God

The Scent of God

by Beryl Bissell


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When Beryl Bissell entered a cloistered convent in New Jersey, she believed that God had called her to this way of life. At first blissfully happy, within a year she became prey to obsessive compulsions. Her vocation at risk, she overcame these disorders, and persevered for another ten years until returning home to Puerto Rico to care for her ailing father.

Thrust into this sensual environment, she was drawn to Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest, and underwent a belated coming of age. For the next three years, she struggled to reconcile human desire with spiritual longing. In spare but lyric language, Bissell weaves a powerful story of love, death, guilt, and redemption-a pilgrimage that reaches beyond dogma to personal truth and evokes a transformation that changes not only Beryl but the lives of those whom she most loves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781582433615
Publisher: Counterpoint Press
Publication date: 04/02/2007
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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The Scent of God 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
sedeara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although this book took a while to get going for me, by the halfway point I was completely hooked. This memoir does what the best of them do: it tells a story as compelling as anything you'll find in fiction, yet it rings true because the author is painfully honest in her own struggles and failings, so that you can believe in her triumphs. This book can be read on two levels, both of which resonated with me. On one level, you have a "forbidden love" story, the story of two people who fell in love with one another despite their lives and their decisions (and acceptance) that they would forgo romantic love. On this level, the book does not disappoint: it's one of the most moving love stories I've ever read, complete with all the ups and downs and insecurities of first (and in this case, great), love, but it manages to do something few fictional accounts of love do: it makes you really want to see the couple together in spite of the hardship they endure. Because the hardship was real and not contrived by an author to heighten romantic tension, it's that much more compelling.On the second level, this book is an exploration of Beryl's relationship with Catholicism and with her faith as a whole. While it's a little harder for me to talk about this thread objectively, this was the thing about this book that really lodged beneath my ribs. The ebbs and flows of Beryl's faith will be familiar to most readers who desire or seek relationship with a higher power; but what was really inspiring was Beryl's ability to find God despite having to endure some of the hardest realities anyone should have to face, including the death of a child. This is a story of great love, great pain, and an even greater God.
mahallett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
really good. very moving. i'm not even religious!. surprised not to have heard more of this book--because it's by a woman/ from minnesota?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
zenithelphaba More than 1 year ago
: "the scent of god" by beryl singleton bissell (lowercase by author) (non-fiction/autobio) Told in first-person, novel form. Well written and easy to follow. Interesting story of a New Jersey Cloistered nun torn between her love for God and her love for a man. Very interesting how Beryl chapters her life into the Canonical Offices (hours of day) of the Roman Catholic Church and prefaces each chapter with her practice of each corresponding Office. Excellent inside look into the life and thoughts of a cloistered nun without reading a stuffy reference book. Beryl also references other books of interest throughout. Her life within the church is balanced nicely with romance and then tragedy. Beryl is very honest! Highly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beryl Singleton Bissell story captivated me and surprised me. I cried my heart out at the unexpected ending. A must read for anyone who loves a good memior!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book very early this morning and have been haunted by it all day. Never has a story been so moving for me. Beryl's will and pure sense of the self is astounding and through all of her life challenges, particularly those revealed at the end I believe she still manages to stand tall and find comfort in her journey. There are no mistakes in this life and this story was a gift to me as it actually has strengthened my faith in God. Order this book today - it belongs on every bookshelf.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell is a work of fine art, reminiscent of a painting by Rubens or a haunting Saint-Saëns melody. The beautifully crafted memoir offers words that glisten like gems on each page. Lush imagery, redolent with heady scents and vibrant color, transports the reader to locales ranging from the sanctified to the exotic. Readers will savor every chapter of this alluring tale. The story begins in 1947 in Saddle River, New Jersey. Beryl, one of four siblings in a Catholic family, catalogs her mortal sins at an early age and is riddled with guilt when her mother serves meat on Friday or the family misses Mass. Her father¿s binges and the rage and panic his drinking elicits in her mother, cause Beryl to seek comfort in nature. With her siblings, she happily tramps through the lakeside woods - swimming, fishing, tobogganing, and exploring abandoned farmhouses. In sixth grade, Beryl begins attending a private boarding school run by Catholic nuns who teach her about a God of unconditional love. This knowledge calms and thrills the young girl, who longs for stability and acceptance. When Beryl is thirteen, her father¿s drinking causes him to lose his position as vice-president of a New York bank, but he is offered an alternate position in Puerto Rico. When the family relocates to the tropical island, Beryl draws inward, avoiding friends and life outside the home. Beryl¿s sister¿s popularity and her mother¿s critical harping about her weight increase her sense of displacement. Witnessing the drowning of a young boy, however, brings her face to face with her own mortality and the superficiality of earthly success. This new knowledge, in combination with a mystical experience of God¿s love and the breakup with her ¿first love¿ -- a handsome young Puerto Rican boy -- set her on a course toward a life of commitment to God whose love is eternal and unchanging. At the age of eighteen, and in spite of her parent¿s initial disapproval, Beryl enters the Monastery of Saint Clare in Bordentown, New Jersey. With visions of becoming a saint, she thrives on the simple goodness of the daily processes in the cloistered nunnery, enjoying working in the bakery, her daily prayers, and the quiet camaraderie of her sister nuns. Her experiences in the monastery are lovingly and honestly recounted, providing a rare glimpse into this life. Twelve years later, Beryl is deeply ensconced in the tranquility of the monastery when she receives the news that her father has taken ill, and that she needs to return home to assist her mother with his care. Returning to the island reawakens her senses. ¿I woke that morning to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below, the pink and gold of the rising sun playing across my face. Despite my father¿s condition and my mother¿s frailty, I felt a wild surge of happiness. Eight floors below my window, a receding wave shimmered back toward an oncoming breaker, leaving a froth of bubbles to mark the edges of its ride. A solitary man jogged along the beach, the wet sand forming silvery halos around his footprints.¿ In the course of caring for her father, and in the most delectable and surprising twist of this true story, Beryl meets Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest who preaches at the local church of Saint Jorge. At first irritated by the man, Beryl slowly finds herself falling in love as she gets to know him better, igniting the most painful yet wondrous struggle of her life. It would spoil the story to reveal more. Suffice it to say that the segment of the book involving Vittorio is sensual and captivating, never offensive, and completely addictive. Be forewarned that The Scent of God will lodge in your heart and invade your dreams for years to come. Thankfully, the author is working on a sequel to The Scent of God. This reader anxiously awaits the next chapter in Beryl¿s delightful true-life saga.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Beryl Singleton Bissell writes of a young woman's longing that every woman has known: The emphemeral fog that sometimes settles and goes unrecognized until suddenly sexuality comes into play. The Scent of God is eloquently written, beautifully detailed in its scenes of family life, village and church. She honestly words her life as a nun in love with a priest. The Scent of God teaches us of monastic rituals from Matins to Compline, teaches us of everlasting love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this most eloquent memoir, Bissell debuts a fine literary talent that will not be forgotten and should not be missed. It is with beauty and grace that we are taken on the journey of a young girl who longs to become a nun and, more importantly, desires a real relationship with God through honest faith. In artful parallel to the canonical hours of the Catholic Church, Beryl's story of striving to be faithful to God takes us to Holy Child School, the Monastery of St. Clare, the beaches of Puerto Rico and the beauty of Italy. She struggles through illness, falls in love, questions her faith and seeks God's will everywhere from her cell at St. Clare to the parish of San Jorge to the Spanish Steps in Rome. This memoir is not just an amazing story, but one that is told with clarity and humor. At times, Bissell references the likes of St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux but also employs the comic relief of works like The Sensuous Woman by 'J'. Somehow she manages to be simultaneously delightful and incredibly intense. Bissell's command of the language is worth noting whether she is describing the scenery: 'Positano was all narrow streets and steep alleyways. Large pots of bright geraniums and trailing aspidistra lined stairways leading to pink- and cream-colored houses, and the cobbled streets glowed with a softly burnished salmon-tinted patina.' or detailing a delicious meal: 'I put my teeth around [another quenepa] with the stem still attached and shivered as the thin shell split with a crisp pop. This time the fruit stayed inside. It sat like a transparent egg yolk inside a tiny olive shell. I squished the pod and the fruit leaped again into my mouth.' Her well-crafted memoir intimately portrays the trials - and triumphs - of finding God, true love and yourself in things great and small. Don't pass up this moving story that is sure to fill its readers with faith, hope and love.