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The Monk Downstairs: A Novel

The Monk Downstairs: A Novel Cover



Author's Note

I suppose it was natural that I would eventually write a story about a slightly oversexed monk. I entered an ashram (an eastern monastery, in Oakland, no less) myself at the age of twenty-five, bent on shedding the world and finding God, and spent two years absorbed in meditation, before eventually running off with the ashram cook, with subsequent complications. The two of us lived in a rickety shack in the mountains of northern California, ostensibly in prayerful retreat from the hectic world, but eventually it became all too clear that my notion of prayerful retreat inclined toward sitting on a stump contemplating the serene flow of the Eel River below and the majestic sawtooth sweep of the mountains against the sky, while hers seemed to involve a lot of uprooting blackberries and clearing old trails of poison oak. She thought I was lazy and I thought she was driven. Eventually she went to India to work with Mother Theresa and I got a job in a lumber mill in Willits, which seemed like a prayerful retreat itself by then. So the theme of what Thomas Merton called ?contemplation in a world of action,? the difficulty of reconciling a vigorous life of service in the world, the vita activa, with the vita contemplativa, the life of quiet prayer, is one that has absorbed me throughout my own spiritual journey.

For many years, the working title for The Monk Downstairs was "That Good Part," a phrase from the New Testament story of Martha and Mary, in Luke 10, which serves as the novel?s epigraph: ?But Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.? The two sisters in the Bible story, one busy to the verge of distraction serving her Lord, the other sitting at His feet, languidly devotional, are classic examples of the contrasting spiritual types I experienced so vividly in the mountains of Mendocino County, with Martha representing the vita activa and Mary representing the contemplative approach to God. In the novel, it was my intention to bring an overloaded single mother, a de facto Martha-type with a frenetic modern life, together with a disheartened monk, a sort of wounded Mary, fresh from twenty years of apparently fruitless prayer. I wanted to explore in the relationship between the two the complex dynamics of worldly activity and contemplative perspective, and hopefully to find some balance of the apparently conflicting approaches in the reconciling depths of a love story. Through the novel?s unfolding action, Michael Christopher, the lifelong Mary, moves by often-unwilling degrees toward a transforming involvement with the realities of life and love in the world, while the Martha-type Rebecca is brought inexorably to an unanticipated immersion in the peace at the root of all action, and a revelatory taste of the silence of God.

Product Details

A Novel
Farrington, Tim
San Francisco, CA
Religious - General
Man-woman relationships
Mothers and daughters
Love stories
General Fiction
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Series Volume:
no. 00-4754
Publication Date:
July 2002
8.46x5.80x1.00 in. .97 lbs.

Related Subjects

» Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
» Religion » Christianity » Christian Fiction

The Monk Downstairs: A Novel
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 288 pages HarperOne - English 9780062517852 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Sappy, sentimental, and painfully earnest: the sort of silliness that will appeal to anyone who has ever wept over Joseph Campbell or Enya."
"Review" by , "One of the most engaging and humble characters in modern fiction. A touching novel from a wonderfully gifted writer."
"Review" by , "I don?t use the word 'enthralling' often, but no better adjective applies to Farrington?s warm, intelligent, wry, absolutely wonderful novel."
"Synopsis" by , When a spiritual crisis compels monk Michael Christopher to leave the monastery after 20 years, he moves into a San Francisco apartment where he is drawn to his landlady, Rebecca. Michael soon wrestles with his yearning for a life of contemplation and the need for a life of action-in-the-world in this love story with a twist: God as the other woman.
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