The Cloister Door by Victoria Hughes
In The Cloister Door, Victoria Hughes tells the beautiful story of Maryanne. We first meet Maryanne at the age of eighteen. Maryanne is known to be wild, but what most people do not realize is Maryanne is deeply religious, as she attends church regularly and is fascinated by nuns. She only behaves wildly in an attempt to fit in with the behavior of her divorced mother and her older sister. Maryanne begins to visit a group of cloistered nuns and is called to join but resists, instead going off to college because she is offered a full scholarship. She tells the nuns that it must be God’s will she attend college, even though deep down she believes she is simply not good enough to serve God. The story moves forward and we follow Maryanne, now in her thirties, in her career as a flight attendant. It is not until Maryanne has an abortion that she begins to return to the church and finally heeds God’s call and enters the monastery. Maryanne believes this is the end of her story, but it is really just the beginning. Maryanne’s life in the monastery is just as difficult as it was out in the world, and she must learn to live not only with God, but also with her sisters in Christ. Ultimately, Maryanne learns she must not only forgive herself, but also accept the forgiveness of God if she is to be a true member of the community.
Hughes tells a compelling story in beautifully phrased prose that enthralls the reader from the very beginning. The story is interesting even for those who are not inclined to the spiritual; Hughes paints a captivating and realistic picture of monastic life. Maryanne’s fears and the reactions of her friends and family are thoroughly explored and realistically portrayed. The real draw of the story, however, is Maryanne, and the heartfelt depiction of her spiritual journey. The reader will worry about her, root for her, and cheer her on through every twist and turn that life, and God, throws at her.