The Cloister Walk – Kathleen Norris

Title: The Cloister Walk
Author: Kathleen Norris
ISBN: 9781573225847
Pages: 384
Release Date: April 2, 1996
Publisher: Riverhead Trade
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

The Cloister Walk is a quiet, contemplative work of non-fiction about Kathleen Norris’ life as a Benedictine oblate, which is another word for an associate.  She committed herself to a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota and lived there, away from her husband, for two years. 

Review:

The portrait of monastery life in The Cloister Walk is fascinating.  Though many may wonder what appeal it holds for people, Norris really makes it clear why people choose to lead cloistered lives.  She presents a very unique view of monastics of the Catholic church and shows why they are still relevant.  Often, the vow of celibacy for monks and nuns is ridiculed in present day society.  Norris presents her own take on that tradition and discusses why it is actually beneficial to these spiritual people. 

This is a book that will make you feel peaceful as you are reading it.  It’s such a quiet novel, and it is beautifully written.  Norris’ main line of work was poetry before writing The Cloister Walk, and that really shows.  This book is its own work of poetry, gorgeous and extremely serene.

Norris goes on a personal journey in The Cloister Walk, trying to awaken the spirituality within her.  She wasn’t a religious person before committing to the Benedictines as an oblate – this book is a chronicle of her realization of her faith.  Though her discussions of spirituality are relevant to all, it is Christians (and specifically Catholics) who will get the most from this book.  However, the self-contemplation and questioning will appeal to readers of many faiths.

Norris discusses the Catholic Church throughout The Cloister Walk.  Though she never says it outright, in a lot of ways, Norris is refuting the charge that the Catholic Church is out of date and no longer relevant.  She discusses scripture in detail, showing how it can be applied to everyday life.  Through her discussion of monastic life, she attempts to display the relevance of the Catholic Church as a whole.  It’s an extremely interesting argument, and one I believe she executes successfully.

The Cloister Walk was an enjoyable book, with some minor flaws.  Often times it is self-indulgent, and it can be unbelievably slow sometimes.  However, the meandering tone of the novel is a wonderful metaphor for Norris’ journey through her spirituality.  It’s a beautiful little book, and though it’s definitely not for everyone, I am certainly glad that I gave it a try.

Comments

  1. I have recently finished her Amazing Grace and she talked there a little about her life with the Benedictine monks. I think she is a very skilled writer and one that can appeal to wide audience, not only Catholics or Protestants.

  2. I have recently finished her Amazing Grace and she talked there a little about her life with the Benedictine monks. I think she is a very skilled writer and one that can appeal to wide audience, not only Catholics or Protestants.

  3. Sounds Wow! That’s something to leave your life and join a monastery for 2 years. The books sounds good. Though I really don’t read memoirs, i think i will give it a try!

  4. Sounds Wow! That’s something to leave your life and join a monastery for 2 years. The books sounds good. Though I really don’t read memoirs, i think i will give it a try!

  5. I’d forgotten about this book … read it years ago and agree it’s peaceful and contemplative. And slow sometimes. But quite good if that’s what you’re in the mood for!

  6. I’d forgotten about this book … read it years ago and agree it’s peaceful and contemplative. And slow sometimes. But quite good if that’s what you’re in the mood for!

  7. I’m fascinated by the idea of leaving your “normal, everyday life” to cloister yourself away and live a quite, contemplative life. I haven’t heard of this book before so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  8. I’m fascinated by the idea of leaving your “normal, everyday life” to cloister yourself away and live a quite, contemplative life. I haven’t heard of this book before so thank you for bringing it to my attention.

  9. I’m always looking for things to read during my hour of adoration each week that will be spiritual enough so I feel like I am doing the “right thing” but also interesting enough to keep me awake since my hour overlaps my bedtime! This sounds perfect – especially because on the days of feeling overwhelmend by being mother and wife, I daydream about running away to a cloister!

  10. I’m always looking for things to read during my hour of adoration each week that will be spiritual enough so I feel like I am doing the “right thing” but also interesting enough to keep me awake since my hour overlaps my bedtime! This sounds perfect – especially because on the days of feeling overwhelmend by being mother and wife, I daydream about running away to a cloister!

  11. I read this more than 10 years ago I bet. I don’t remember it being slow, but I do remember pushing it on a bunch of people. What’s so surprising about that is that I’m not Catholic, I’m not Christian, and in fact I’m not very religious at all. But the book struck a cord. And it’s still right on my bookshelf where I can find it immediately.

  12. I read this more than 10 years ago I bet. I don’t remember it being slow, but I do remember pushing it on a bunch of people. What’s so surprising about that is that I’m not Catholic, I’m not Christian, and in fact I’m not very religious at all. But the book struck a cord. And it’s still right on my bookshelf where I can find it immediately.

  13. I just finished A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically in which a self-described secular Jew took a year to try to live according to a literal interpretation of the Bible. His book was more humorous than contemplative (though, I was pleased he wasn’t sacrilegious or condescending in his approach). I though it would be interesting to compare this memoir of another spiritual journey. Thanks for the recommendation.

  14. I just finished A.J. Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically in which a self-described secular Jew took a year to try to live according to a literal interpretation of the Bible. His book was more humorous than contemplative (though, I was pleased he wasn’t sacrilegious or condescending in his approach). I though it would be interesting to compare this memoir of another spiritual journey. Thanks for the recommendation.

  15. This actually sounds really interesting! Not something I have ever really read about before either. I enjoy the different, so I am going to add this to the wish list for sure! Thanks for the review!

  16. This actually sounds really interesting! Not something I have ever really read about before either. I enjoy the different, so I am going to add this to the wish list for sure! Thanks for the review!

  17. I cannot even imagine leaving my husband to spend 2 years in a monastery!

  18. I cannot even imagine leaving my husband to spend 2 years in a monastery!

  19. I cannot even imagine leaving my husband to spend 2 years in a monastery!

  20. I cannot even imagine leaving my husband to spend 2 years in a monastery!

  21. I think a lot of spiritual memoirs can get self indulgent. I’ve thought that a lot. I am glad you liked this despite that fact. I’ll definitely check this book out. I very much am interested in returning to church myself. I just need to make an effort.

  22. I think a lot of spiritual memoirs can get self indulgent. I’ve thought that a lot. I am glad you liked this despite that fact. I’ll definitely check this book out. I very much am interested in returning to church myself. I just need to make an effort.

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