2. Lying Awake

by Mark Salzman

This one is about a cloistered nun who after 20 years of quiet, uneventful waiting (for God's presence) begins to experience episodes of overwhelming rapture. When the episodes first occur she finds herself suffering from migraines that eventually bring here to a state of peace and clarity. As time goes on the migraines get worse but they lead to truly transcendent experiences where all is left behind, including the self, nothing left but an extraordinary clarity. There she finds God. It is truly a gift to be able to leave the world, commune with the creator, sustainer and redeemer of life, and come back to hang out with the nuns. Pretty cool spot to be in.

During this time, she also discovers that she is a gifted writer. She's been writing volumes and the words keep coming.

Turns out she's developed a mild form of epilepsy caused by a small growth on her brain. It will grow and she will get worse/better, depending on your persective on her new-found gifts. A rountine surgery (w/90% success rate) would correct the problem and eliminate the seisures/raptures. This poses a dilemma for her: should she get the surgery? If these seisures are truly a gift from God, should she put an end to them? If the growth is going to continue to tax her fellow nuns and eventually kill her, should she put an end to them?

The novel explores some deep questions of faith and spirituality, some of which are universal.

Overall, I found it fairly boring, but how does a writer make life in a cloister otherwise? Salzman explores the inner life of his protagonist in great detail, but tends to avoid description of her rapturous, transcendent states, which is what I was most interested in reading about. For that reason it fell short of my expectations.


Jarrett said...

Good level of detail. At your recommendation I won't read it, though the dilemma does strike me as an interesting one. And you don't reveal how she decides (or if she does, actually) so if someone does find themseleves interested there is enough still to discover on her or his own.

Olman Feelyus said...

Great review, except that everything up to the last paragraph is so compellingly written that I was seriously considering reading the book!