A book about nuns? This is one of my favorite books of late, and I loved what Maureen Corrigan of The Washington Post wrote in her review:
Nuns have greatly diminished in number since the 60’s, and when they do make an appearance on screen, they are usually grim. The implication is that there must be something off about a woman who would choose that life.
Claire Luchette’s debut novel, Agatha of Little Neon, offers a counter-narrative to these portrayals.
Agatha tells her story in retrospect, beginning in 2005 in her convent outside of Buffalo, N.Y. It’s a place with walls painted “the color of mayonnaise,” ruled by a beloved elderly Mother Superior who is “frail as filament.” Agatha has spent seven years there, ever since she took her vows at the age of 22. She and three fellow sisters — all the same age — run a day care center; but, when the novel opens, the diocese is going broke because, as Agatha tactfully says, “the men in charge had been reckless.”
Later on, when Agatha is “all out of deference,” she’s more lacerating about the “recklessness” — sexual as well as monetary — of those priests who are “in charge.” Abruptly booted out of their convent, the four sisters are transferred to a half-way house in the depressed Rhode Island town of Woonsocket. There, without any training, they’re expected to minister to recovering addicts and ex-convicts.
You don’t have to be Catholic to connect with Luchette’s nuanced and vivid story of a lonely young woman yearning for community and also yearning for everything she’s had to give up to be part of that community. The nuns don’t fly or sing or torment the helpless in Agatha of Little Neon, but they do make an indelible impression.