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The Cloister Walk [Paperback]

Kathleen Norris
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 29 2002
A New York Times bestseller for 23 weeks

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

"A strange and beautiful book...Part memoir, part meditation, it is a remarkable piece of writing." -The Boston Globe

"The Cloister Walk is a new opportunity to discover a remarkable writer with a huge, wise heart...Norris resonates deeply for a lot of people: She's one of those writers who demands to be handed around. You want to share this great discovery, giving her work as a gift3/4or you simply shove a copy in the face of a friend, saying 'Read this.'" -Minneapolis Star-Tribune


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Product Description

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In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris gives us an intimate look at how religious life fills a gap in the soul. Her poetic sensibilities internalize the monastery as a symbol of spirituality, with its sanctity and humor, questioning and uncertainty, rhythm and vigor. Beyond moral precepts and Bible stories, Cloister Walk is a very personal account of religion lived fully. It depicts a depth and beauty of spirituality in monastic life that has survived the vicissitudes of Roman Catholic politics and pomp.

From Publishers Weekly

The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait?one of the most vibrant since Merton's?of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inside Look Jan. 15 2004
Format:Paperback
A RING OF TRUTH: Like Kathleen Norris, I am a Protestant who lives in a small town and have been heavily influenced by being a guest in a Benedictine Monastery many times. Like Norris, I have been invited into the cloister. Her account has the ring of authenticity. By the time I finished the book I realized I was reading while listening to the CD of chants prepared at the monastery I most often visit.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK? Norris is a poet. This book is a collection of sketches from inside the monastery, from monastic history, from her own small town, from her vacations, and from the cities she has lived and worked in. Some chapters are long, while others are short. Her themes bounce from chapter to chapter. If you like poetic imagery written in prose and are interested in this theme, you will like this book.
WHO WILL NOT LIKE THIS BOOK? If you like to read technical manuals and books with finely structured outlines, you will probably not like this book. You may feel that Norris rambles too much and doesn't stay with her main point.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Aimless and self-absorbed April 24 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book was one of the most boring books I've had to read in a long time. I found the writing to be unimaginative and felt like the book had no direction. I was very disappointed and had forgotten it before it was even finished.
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Format:Paperback
This book received excellent reviews; I had to satisfy my curiosity and read it. I slowly read, hoping to discover some great truths I may have missed these past 6 decades.The book is unique in that the author explains how monks and nuns live, work, and worship together in communities and also how she had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, worshipping in her protestant church as well.
This is a nice book for tolerant people of any faith. Everyone can benefit from quiet reflection, from reading scripture, from singing hymns, and from praying. We all have the freedom to worship God in different ways. Kathleen Norris was curious about the catholic faith, although she remains a protestant. Her experience within the monastery is beneficial to her soul and she describes how, as a poet and writer, the rituals, liturgy, and hospitality within the monastic setting further her own understanding of spirituality.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Baby Steps... June 29 2003
By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Kathleen Norris' magnum opus, The Cloister Walk, has provided the entrance into monastic spirituality for almost as many people as any work in history, assuming, of course, that the people who purchased her book read, mark, and inward digest the meanings contained therein.
It is a truly remarkable achievement--one born of contradiction and ambiguity. A woman has found such spirituality and insight in communities predominantly organised and lived in by men (I wonder how different or similar this work would be had Norris concentrated on visiting convents?). A protestant has found a home in her own soul for many of the most 'catholic' of practices. Where these insights and practices lead are different at different times, ever changing yet ever constant.
Norris structures her book (and structure is very important for monastic types) in a similar fashion to a monastic day and year. She follows a liturgical calendar, and fills in the gaps with reflections and stories of experiences.
She uses the daily cycle to great effect--for instance, on April 2, the day of Mary of Egypt, Norris incorporates the story of Mary into her narrative in much the same way that monastics incorporate such stories into their practice and contemplation: 'Monks have always told the story of Mary of Egypt to remind themselves not to grow complacent in their monastic observances, mistaking them for the salvation that comes from God alone. ... Repentance is coming to our senses, seeing, suddenly, what we've done that we might not have done, or recognising, as Oscar Wilde says in his great religious meditation "De Profundis", that the problem is not in what we do but in what we become.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Take Notice Spiritual Journeyers June 11 2003
Format:Paperback
For many people, Kathleen Norris' story is somewhat familiar. She was raised in a faith tradition as a child, abandoned her faith, or at least put her faith on hold, then rediscovers her faith as an adult. Norris' experience is hardly typical, but it is definitely not "the same old story" with a different person telling it. Norris rediscovers faith accidentally, but it is not the Protestant faith of her youth. She is now a Protestant whose faith is colored by Roman Catholicism, particularly the Benedictine monastic tradition in Catholicism.
Norris is a writer whose primary genre has been poetry. In 1991, she spent a year at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota and entered into the life of this monastic community. From time to time she also traveled to her home and to various parts of the country for conferences or speaking engagements. The book is taken from reflections of that experience. In the book, she is connected to her life outside the monastery while at the monastery and while away from the monastery, she still seems to be very present to the life of the monastery. The life in the monastery has a certain pattern to it, based on the Rule of St. Benedict. The year follows a calendar, but it is the calendar of the Roman Martyrology which lists the days that various saints and religious feasts are remembered. The Liturgy of the Hours, chanted by the monks is essential to the life of the monastery as is time for personal prayer and reflection. As both an insider (as a person connected to the monastery) and an outsider (a Protestant woman in an all male Catholic community), Norris is able to make keen insights into the life of the monastery with a unique perspective.
This is a book that should be read from cover to cover when the book is read for the first time.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
I was expecting this to be a book about the monastic experience, but instead, it is a book mostly about Kathleen Norris and her social theories. Read more
Published on Feb. 3 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise!
I had been curious about "The Cloister Walk" for many years, but have been inexplicably reluctant to read it. Read more
Published on June 8 2003 by Volkert Volkersz
5.0 out of 5 stars A Reflective Journal of Personal Discovery
The Cloister Walk
by Kathleen Norris
Calling to mind the writings of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, Kathleen Norris writes a deeply personal journal of spiritual... Read more
Published on March 4 2003 by Steven K. Szmutko
2.0 out of 5 stars Saddened
Although Ms. Norris book describes much of the beauty of the Catholic faith, it ultimately is spoiled by conceit and self-promotion. Read more
Published on Oct. 21 2002 by Deedee
5.0 out of 5 stars Started my own personal walk...
It would be difficult for me to say a harsh thing about this book or the companion audio tapes read by Debra Winger. Read more
Published on Feb. 26 2002 by David Tropeano
2.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Blessings
Norris' book was so highly praised that some disappointment was inevitable. There are some good insights, but they're mixed in with pompous, snobblish, quirky, cranky, and... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2001 by Kathleen Griffin
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Artists' Way
This book is a singular resource for writers and, I presume, other artists and those "non-artists" who perceive their work as a vocation. Read more
Published on Sept. 7 2001 by Barbara R. Saunders
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring (rjoc@aol.com)
Kathleen Norris takes her readers on a splendid journey into the monastic life and hence into the self. Read more
Published on Aug. 3 2001 by R. OConnor
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book...
Kathleen Norris brings to the table a unique perspective on the monastic life for two reasons:
1.) She comes from a Protestant background
2. Read more
Published on April 7 2001 by Shawn Tzu
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