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The Cloister Walk Paperback – Apr 1 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (April 1 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573225843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573225847
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.8 x 20.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #162,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
Even most christians today seem to find the idea of the monastery archaic, extreme and unappealing. Here, Ms Norris, a hesitant believer, makes the convent seem appealing, beautiful and full of wisdom.
Once you get past the gimmick - a modern poet finding centering in a monastery - there is still much to like about this book. It is a combination of a lot of things - a painfully personal journal, a catalog of discoveries and musings, a polished essay on laundry that was published in the New Yorker, and several brilliant pieces that stand as academic writing, ready for a feminist publication or academic journal.
I think the latter were my favorite. It is informative and enjoyable to find Ms. Norris taking on the virgin martyrs, looking at catholic history and practice with a modern feminist eye, and finding much to like, and much to weep over. Another similar essay comparing the role of biblical prophets and modern day poets (both dwellers on the "margin" of society, yet deeply necessary to that society) is also excellent.
Norris' respect for the Word is wonderful, as well. She writes much and often about the poetry of the Bible - psalms, Jeremiah - and how they fit and fill her life. She brings new life to what, for many of us, have been wrongly dead words.
Her reflections on the monastery are good. She gives monks and nuns an earthy reality, talking about their quirks, their sense of humor, their doubts and struggles as well as their achievements, discipline, and success. She spends a fair amount of time digging into the heritage and history of monasticism and christianity - apparently she is reading Christian classics as she is living at the monastery - and I learned much about ancient monks, martyrs, and saints.
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Format: Paperback
I first read Cloister Walk after deciding to write my senior thesis on her writings. I was intrigued by a writer who was a feminist, embraced Christianity, explored monasteries, and found an audience outside the conservative Christian market. As a person who has grown up with a strong faith in God and love for Jesus, I also longed for new ways to talk about God. Norris's honesty and exploration of what it's like to live out the beliefs and ideas of the Christian faith gave me confidence to explore my own experiences of these beliefs. Her chapter on the Psalms was particularly amazing. I felt like I was being set free with Norris to be honest with God and others about being human--complete with anger, doubt, and depression. Her theology, or speech about God, is grounded in everyday living. She finds God revealed in the simplest things, which is consistent with the Bible and the character of God--who chose to become a human in Jesus. This affirms for me that even the smallest things I do everyday are important to God--because he loves me enough to become someone like me.
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Format: Paperback
This book was a last minute grab from an airport newstand. Frankly, I expected to be disappointed. (Betty J. Eadie's "Embraced by the Light" and James Redfield's "The Celestine Prophecy" had similarly let me down on a long flight.)
I find that much of contemporary spiritual literature, although frequently heartfelt and sincere, is glib and unsubstantial. "The Cloister Walk" was different. It was thoughtful and aware, but maybe better than that, it was smart. Although the author's preoccupation with her status as a tortured poet was less than riveting, I appreciated the context that Kathleen Norris' scholarly impulses provided and I found that I could agree with many of her various points of view. (That whole virgin martyrs phenomenon does have a wierd legacy.)
As I read, I felt much of my self-generated tension drain away from me. Norris took me along on the journey with her, and I was glad to go. She offered me a sense of the peace I so desperately craved.
Let me say this, I'm a voracious and consumptive reader. Few are the books I revisit. "The Cloister Walk" is still on my nightstand, two years after I first picked it up.
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