Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Book Review: The Scent of God

My poor forlorn blog has been so neglected as I continue to write for my Disney's blog Just Amy.

Still, I'm way behind in my book reviews, so I figured I've give a quick update. First, I can't remember most of the books I have read recently. I'm almost 9 months pregnant and the brain is working overtime with critical complex issues such as remembering that the salt is white and the pepper is black. I also found my car keys in the refrigerator recently. Can't explain that.

However, a couple of books that do stand out include:

The Scent of God: A Memoir by Beryl Singleton Bissell

Wow, this was a great book. As many of you know, I have an ongoing existential crises and this fit that MO perfectly. This book is about a cloistered nun, which I had always regarded with a horrid fascination. Cloistered nuns are locked away from society to live a solitary contemplative life, even their families may never see their faces again. Talk about shock value. Anyway, I had always assumed these women were out of their minds, insane perhaps, but after reading this book, I actually remarked to my mother, "you know, I think if my life had gone differently, I could have become a contemplative nun."

My mother howled at this one- both of my parents were involved in Catholic religious orders for many years and obviously knows me quite well, and so could appreciate the ridiculousness of the statement from a special perspective. However, while maybe that was a stretch, there IS a part of me that finds most of life and society so superficial, I do often wonder why we dont all dedicate our lives to the search for eternal truth, I can't believe I actually spend most of my time doing things like overseeing the development of software products or picking out shingle colors for my house.

I spoke to my father about this also. My Dad spent 17 years in as a Catholic brother, which is similar to the priesthood. He experience reminded me a lot of the cloistered nun in the book, which is that even in dedicating your life to religion and seeking God, you often become no closer than anyone else. My father told me that someone once said "you find God not by looking in the clouds (as many religions would have you focus), but in the people and world around you." And this seemed very real to me as well- sometimes I look at my son and see such divine beauty in his innocence or the light in his eyes or the richness of his laugh that I am certain God could not challenge in it's purity and truth. Or in the embrace of my husband, or the comfort of my parents, or the shared joys of friendship or the filtering of sunlight through the clouds on a beautiful day. If you look, you can find this "divinity" in many places. Not all the time, but snippets here and there, enough to sustain faith. But it too, is easy enough to miss if you forget to look.

Anyway, enough of that, I have to get back to my busy day filled with things that ultimately will have no meaning (haha) but I do highly recommend this book, it was well written and quite captivating.

I hope to return soon, where I will also provide my thoughts on books such as:

  • A Life in Smoke: A Memoir by Julia Hansen
  • Water for Elephants: A Novel by Sara Gruen
  • Buddha: A Story of Enlightenment by Deepak Chopra
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
  • The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

Again, a sadly incomplete list of recent reading, but the library protects my privacy even from myself so I can't tell what else I might have checked out recently.


Beryl Singleton Bissell said...

Your remark to your parents and their response made me laugh out-loud. Google Alerts led me here (to your blog) and though I've only just met you and have no idea what you look like, I could almost see you -- in all your pregnant glory -- saying that had things gone differently you might have become a contemplative nun. I don't know if this insight hit you after reading my book but the possibility eased some of the guilt concerned "catholics" have tried to press onto me for "leading so many priests and nuns astray" -- which makes me wonder if they actually read the book or if they read the cover copy and jumped to conclusions. Anyway, it's a joy to have connected with you.

Amy said...

Oh my, a celebrity visiting my blog! Wow, this is so exciting! Now I wish I really would have reread my post before publishing since I'm now horrified that I didn't do a better job of writing when an actual writer was going to drop by!

Beryl, thank you for your comment, you really did a wonderful job with the book (and I recommended it to several people). I can quite assure you AND The Vatican that it was not until I read your book that I actually could see myself leading a contemplative life! Now, I'm all talk- as a married mother of young children- but still, it's quite an achievement!

Best wishes to you.