This is an important text for any student of Carmelite spirituality. This book contains the records of Saint Theresa during the years in which she was establishing new convents throughout Spain (she established or reformed nearly 200 convents in just 9 years), and details what she did, how she did it, and the many lessons she learned along the way. It is really quite an adventure to read; to learn about each unique challenges that each new convent posed, and the many protagonists and antagonists she encountered in her journeys. Early on, it becomes immediately evident that hardship and trial is part-in-parcel of such a lofty mission, as it almost always accompanied the foundation of each new convent. In this sense, it is really quite a unique lesson is abandonment to divine providence.
The book also details a vast array of personalities who helped the saint along the way, as well as some insight into the character of her nuns. She writes liberally about the good qualities of the good people, and complains little of the bad. Rarely does she ever speak about herself, but instead, we get in depth character analyses of her many benefactors, seeing how prominent a role they played. In this sense, the book is also a lesson on just how much God uses other people to bring about His plans.
I particularly enjoyed reading what she writes about her nuns, and how saintly and obedient they were (such as when she tested the obedience of a nun by asking her to plant a shriveled up cucumber in the ground. The nun obeyed with the simplicity of a child, asking whether she wanted it planted sideways or vertically, not even considering that it will never grow.). It is also interesting to read what she writes about Saint John of the Cross, and the friendly competitions they had between convents. Clearly these women were serious about the faith, and were all saints in their own rights, as Teresa notes.
The literary value of this book is also quite rare, in that it is not quite a log book, and not quite a diary. She clearly had a sharp intellect, and was a master of prose, with an uncanny ability to say much with few words. Perhaps what most distinguishes the saint is her iron will; to have accomplished so much, in such a short period of time, and with constant illness and suffering.