Have you ever wondered what being a contemplative (as opposed to a teaching or nursing) nun is like? If so, Cloistered is the memoir for you.

Being shut into a convent year after year is definitely not for everyone. However, Catherine is drawn to the sisterhood in equal measures by her love of theology and her grief at her father’s death. She expects to find intelligent discourse. Instead, she finds something completely different. Has she joined a cult? A high school straight out of Mean Girls? The 2023 United States House of Representatives? Independent thought is considered disobedient. Bullying and shunning are common. How can Catherine reconcile her ideals with the all too human reality of a group of women living in a defined space?

Was Akenside, Catherine’s convent, just one aberrant place rather than the norm? That is the question left unanswered in Cloistered. I think the book does a good job presenting a balanced view of both the pros and cons of convent life. It definitely shows why Vatican II was necessary. But at its heart, it is one woman’s story. And a fascinating one at that. 5 stars!

Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for a digital review copy of the book.

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