From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Héloïse, and its impact on a modern priest and a Holocaust survivor seeking sanctuary in Manhattan.
Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked when he sees a friend from his seminary days at the altar of his humble parish in upper Manhattan—a friend who was forced to leave under scandalous circumstances. Compelled to reconsider the past, Father Kavanagh wanders into the medieval haven of the Cloisters and stumbles into a conversation with a lovely and intriguing docent, Rachel Vedette.
Having survived the Holocaust and escaped to America, Rachel remains obsessed with her late father’s greatest scholarly achievement: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars. Feeling an odd connection with Father Kavanagh, Rachel shares with him the work that cost her father his life.
At the center of these interrelated stories is the classic romance between the great philosopher Abelard and his intellectual equal, Héloïse. For Rachel, Abelard is the key to understanding her people’s place in history. And for Father Kavanagh, the controversial theologian may be a doorway to understanding the life he himself might have had outside the Church.
|Publisher:||Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
JAMES CARROLL is the author of twelve novels and eight works of nonfiction. He lives in Boston with his wife, the writer Alexandra Marshall.
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Excerpted from "The Cloister"
Copyright © 2019 James Carroll.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
They are most unlikely bedfellows. An American Catholic priest and a French Jewess escaped from the holocaust. Both shackled with guilt from the past. They meet in the Cloisters museum in Inwood New York where she works as a guide and he is seeking shelter from the rain. They talk, spar with each other, back away from each other. Tantalized, they continue to seek each other out. A modicum of trust develops and each reveals small parts of the past that holds a « death grip » on their lives. The Cloister, a space for confiding, invites remembering. The couple is intertwined in this book with another unlikely couple : the medieval philosopher/priest ,Peter Abelard, and his young student, Heloise. James Carroll deftly entwines the trials and tribulations of the famous 12 century religious couple with those of the modern (1950’s) priest and French Jewess. The lives of the former parallel and inform those of the latter. In both cases, the attraction begins with the intellect, with verbal jousting as each prods the other to think anew, regard the past anew. « The first coupling is the coupling of the mind », says Carroll. For Peter Abelard, excommunicated for his belief in a God of love and forgiveness, including forgiveness of Jews who crucified Christ, reason trumps orthodoxy. The American priest, embracing Abelard’s thinking, uncovers the lie that has haunted him for years: the real reason for his friend’s hasty departure from the seminary and his own role in what happened. He abandons the Church if not his belief in God. Tender, poetic, full of compassion for his characters, James Carroll, a former priest himself, demonstrates a mind boggling grasp of history, theology, language and human nature in « Cloister ». A laser beam of intelligence couched in a generous sou Megdis
As Father Kavanagh is giving out holy communion one Sunday, he sees a ghost from his past. There, before him, stands his friend from the seminary. Anxious to meet his friend, he hurries out of the church after mass, to find no trace of him. As he walks the streets to try to find him, he takes shelter from the rain in The Cloisters, a museum. Here, he meets Rachel, a tour guide with an interesting past. A Jew, she was once in the concentration camps. The story vacillates between Kavanagh’s and Rachel Vedette’s stories, as well as that of Peter Abelard’s, the monk and scholar of the twelfth century, whom they both study. This is an intriguing story. However, there is so much explanation of theology mixed in with the story, that I found it extremely slow-moving. I guess I was just looking for an exciting story, rather a dissertation on theology. I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.