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The Tulip and the Pope: A Nun's Story (Vintage)by Deborah Larsen
Synopses & Reviews
In the heat of midsummer, in 1960, nineteen-year-old Deborah and several other young women share a cab to a convent on the Iowa bluffs of the Mississippi River. The girls, passionate to become nuns, heedless of all they are leaving behind, smoke their last cigarettes along the way and enter their life as postulants. In the same precise and beautifully crafted prose that distinguished her successful novel The White (“a brutal and beautiful novel”–The New York Times), Larsen’s memoir lets us into the hushed life inside the convent. We learn about such practices as “custody of the eyes,” the proper devotion to the rule of one’s superiors, and the importance of avoiding “particular friendships.” Her intimate episodic account captures the exquisite sense of peace–even of Presence–that dwelt among the women, as well as the strangeness of living under such strict rules. Gradually, she admits to a growing awareness that there is much life and beauty outside the motherhouse, which she is missing. The physical world–the lush experience of the tulip she stared at in the garden as a girl, the snow she tunneled in, and even the mystery of sex–begins to seem to her a significant alternative theater for a deep understanding and love of God.
With The Tulip and the Pope, Larsen delivers a swift and moving exploration of Christian experience and young womanhood in a more innocent time, and a message of devotion that extends far beyond the high walls of the convent.
From the Hardcover edition.
The story of novelist and poet Deborah Larsen's young womanhood, The Tulip and the Pope is both an exquisitely crafted spiritual memoir and a beautifully nuanced view of life in the convent.
In midsummer of 1960, nineteen-year-old Deborah shares a cab to a convent. She and the teenage girls with her, passionate to become nuns, heedless of all they are leaving behind, smoke their last cigarettes before entering their new lives. In the same artful prose that distinguished her novel The White, Larsen's memoir lets us into the hushed life of the convent. She captures the exquisite peace she found there, as well as the extreme constriction of the rules and her gradual awareness of all that she is missing. Eventually the physical world—the lush tulip she remembers seeing as a girl, the snow she tunneled in, and even the mystery of sex—begins to seem to her an alternative theater for a deep understanding and love of God.
About the Author
Deborah Larsen grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and currently lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She teaches writing at Gettyburg College, where she holds the Merle S. Boyer Chair. She is the author of The White, a novel based on the life of Mary Jemison, and a collection of poetry, Stitching Porcelain. Her poems and short stories have appeared in The Nation, The Yale Review, and The New Yorker, among other publications.
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