by Katherine Sartori
Publisher: Dream Traveler Press
Published: January 19, 2012
Genre: Fiction | Memoir
Katherine Sartori opens a cache of experiences and shares them with her readers through the fictional story of Celie O’Rourke, a young girl who enters a convent in the tumultuous 1960s. Celie’s eyes become our eyes as we live her day-by-day existence inside the walls of the convent.
Sartori brings to the page characters so vivid and alive the reader feels as if he or she is living with them. One can feel pulses race, hearts beat, tears fill eyes. An example of her gift of character development is found here:
Celie couldn’t take her eyes off this charismatic nun, a recognized dynamo in the congregation. No taller than five foot four, Sister Gerald carried her muscular frame like a Cherokee princess, her shoulders thrown back in a statuesque posture demanding attention. A smattering of freckles dotted the woman’s imposing nose and high cheekbones. (Kindle Loc 547)
Immediately we see Sister Gerald. We know something of her personality — charismatic, dynamic; her physical build — not too tall, muscular; her carriage — like a Cherokee princess, statuesque; her facial features — freckles, imposing nose, high cheekbones.
All Sartori’s characters are equally well-developed and described. It makes reading her work a joy.
Further, she develops scene just as well. As soon as Celie gathers with other novitiates and nuns for her first meal at the convent, the solemnity of the room strikes the reader at once:
Dinner was an austere experience, as they ate in complete quiet while a nun read about the life of a saint Celie had never heard of before. * * * Celie eyed the salt and pepper shakers, but they were just out of reach and no one noticed her need . * * * [T]hey must focus, not on their own desires, but on those of others. Celie decided she had to put up with the stew’s bland taste. This would be her first sacrifice as an Augustinian. (Kindle Loc 373)
Imagine the heaviness of finding yourself at such a mealtime after growing up in a home full of family and lots of talking and sometimes shouting. The use of words like “austere,” “complete quiet,” “no one noticed her need,” “bland,” and “her first sacrifice” allow us to see into that room and experience the strangeness of this meal in Celie’s mind and her growing awareness of how her life is changing minute by minute.
During Celie’s first years in the convent, many changes are taking place in the Catholic church as well as the world, some of which the younger nuns welcome and some of which older nuns are definitely not favoring. In the midst of these changes and growing changes in Celie’s life as a nun are the conflicting feelings Celie has as a woman coming into that stage of life when she begins to think of making a home, meeting that love of her life and raising a family. All of this makes for a story that moves quickly through each difficulty and emotion with rapid pace.
Coupling these gifts of writing with the ability to draw from her own story, Sartori gifts her readers with an amazingly well written story rich in detail and feeling. I cannot recommend this book more highly than to call it, in my opinion, a must read.
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Meet the Author:
Katherine (Kas) Sartori recreated her life when she left the convent, teaching children and college students, as well as writing for several corporations. Now she enjoys being a mom and a grandma in California, and loves traveling the world with her husband Joe. Calling herself a Dream Traveler on her blog, she writes about the adventure of continually re-inventing ourselves.
Please take a moment to visit Kas’ website.
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I want to thank Kas for the opportunity to read and review The Chosen Shell.
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Up next: A Kingsbury Collection | Three Novels in One by New York Times best-selling author, Karen Kingsbury.