Cloister (Carroll)

The Cloister 
James Carroll, 2018
Knopf Doubleday
384 pp.

 From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Heloïse, and its impact on a modern priest and a Holocaust survivor seeking sanctuary in Manhattan.

Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked to see a friend from his seminary days named Runner Malloy at the altar of his humble Inwood community parish .

Wondering about their past, he wanders into the medieval haven of The Cloisters, and begins a conversation with a lovely and intriguing museum guide, Rachel Vedette.
Rachel, a scholar of medieval history, has retreated to the quiet of The Cloisters after her harrowing experience as a Jewish woman in France during the Holocaust. She ponders her late father's greatest intellectual work: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars.

Something about Father Kavanagh makes Rachel think he might appreciate her continued studies, and she shares with him the work that cost her father his life.

At the center of these interrelated stories is the classic romance between the great scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual equal Heloïse. For Rachel, Abelard is the key to understanding her people's place in intellectual history. For Kavanagh, he is a doorway to understanding the life he might have had outside of the Church.

The Cloister is James Carroll at his best. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—January 22, 1943
Where—Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., USA; Wiesbaden, Germany
Education—B.a., M.A, St. Paul's College (Seminary)
Awards—National Book Award-Nonfiction; PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award-Nonfiction
Currently—lives in Boston, Massachusetts

James P. Carroll is an American author, historian, and journalist. A Roman Catholic reformer, he has written extensively about his experiences in the seminary and as a priest, and has published books on religion and history, as well as works of fiction.

Early years and priesthood
Carroll was born in Chicago, Illinois, the second of five sons of late Air Force General Joseph Carroll (DIA), and his wife Mary. At the time, his father was a Special Agent of the FBI, which he remained until being seconded to, and later commissioned by, the US Air Force as an Intelligence Officer in 1948.

After this, Carroll was raised in the Washington, D.C. area and in Germany. He was educated at Washington's Priory School (now St. Anselm's Abbey School) and at an American high school, the H. H. Arnold, in Wiesbaden, Germany. He first attended Georgetown University before entering St. Paul's College, the Paulist Fathers' seminary, where he received his B.A. and M.A. degrees.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1969. Carroll served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974. During that time, he studied poetry with George Starbuck and published books on religious subjects and a book of poems.

He was also a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter (1972–1975) and was named Best Columnist by the Catholic Press Association. For his writing on religion and politics he received the first Thomas Merton Award from Pittsburgh's Thomas Merton Center in 1972.

Literary career
Carroll left the priesthood and the Paulist Fathers in 1974 to become a writer, and, in the same year, was a playwright-in-residence at the Berkshire Theater Festival. In 2013 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Carroll's plays have been produced at the Berkshire Theater Festival and at Boston's Next Move Theater. In 1976 he published his first novel, Madonna Red, which was followed by nine others.

He has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, and his op-ed column appears weekly in The Boston Globe. He won the 1996 National Book Award for Nonfiction for An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us—a memoir about the Vietnam War and his relationships with his father, the American military, and the Catholic Church.

In a November 14, 1996 New York Times interview, Carroll explained why he wrote it:

I thought I would feel better. One of the effects of telling the story as I experienced it was for it to be redeemed, made meaningful. At the end, I found myself deeply in touch with the tragic aspect of the life we live. It's a highfalutin word, but there's something tragic to the story I told.

Nevertheless, after completing it, he said, instead of feeling relief, "I put my head down, and I wept."

He is the author of other books on religion and politics, including House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power (2006), which won the first PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for non-fiction. Mr. Carroll's other works include the novels The Cloister (2018), Secret Father (2003), The City Below (1994), Memorial Bridge (1991), Prince of Peace (1984), Mortal Friends (1978), and Madonna Red (1976)

He has also written various plays and a book of poetry, Forbidden Disappointments (1974). Carroll's work has received the Melcher Book Award, the James Parks Morton Interfaith Award, and National Jewish Book Award in History, and has been frequently been named among the Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times.

Academic recognition
Carroll has been a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at the Harvard Divinity School.

He is a trustee of the Boston Public Library, a member of the Advisory Board of the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life at Brandeis University, and a member of the Dean's Council at the Harvard Divinity School.

Carroll is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is a member of the Academy's Committee on International Security Studies. He worked on his 2006 history of the Pentagon, House of War, as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Academy. Carroll is also a Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University in Boston, where he wrote his latest book, Practicing Catholic, published in 2009.

Carroll married the novelist Alexandra Marshall in 1977. They have two grown children and live in Boston, Massachusetts. (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 3/30.2018.)

Book Reviews
The Cloister poetically pingpongs between Abelard’s abbey in Saint-Denis in the 1100s, elsewhere in France during and after World War II, and Upper Manhattan in the early 1950s.… Carroll weaves a patchwork of disparate threads, threads unraveled from clerical vestments, that, when quilted together, spell out the single word that the book embodies.… Incandescent.
New York Times

In The Cloister, Carroll has produced a sweeping, beautifully crafted book–perhaps his best yet.
Wall Street Journal

A literary detective game.… In pushing his readers–in both his fiction and nonfiction–to ponder tough religious topics.… Carroll is continuing the important discussions made famous by Peter Abelard.
New York Journal of Books

James Carroll’s latest novel vibrates with deep compassion and religious intensity.
Christian Science Monitor

[A] heartbreaking blend of history and fiction. In 1142… the aging Abbess Heloïse finds the dead body of her former lover, Peter Abelard. This story line is woven together with the 1950 story of Father Michael Kavanagh…and Rachel Vedette, a museum docent.… [A] very magnetic, satisfying novel.
Publishers Weekly

The connection between the moral dilemmas of the two ages is muddy, and the alternating narratives slow the momentum. Still, this is a book of heart, with serious questions asked about faith, obedience, and love. —David Keymer, Cleveland
Library Journal

Fascinating in its evocation of the twelfth-century Catholic Church in France, this lavishly detailed historical novel serves as an education in historical philosophy, a poignant tale of devoted love, and a portrait of a postwar human crisis influenced heavily by both.… [T]hought-provoking.

Of faith, doubt, and sorrow: Carroll delivers another religiously charged novel, and a fine one at that..… You don't have to be Catholic—or Jewish, for that matter—to appreciate Carroll's story, though it probably helps. A rich, literate tale well told.
Kirkus Reviews

A novel that shifts seamlessly between epic love story, the anatomy of a crisis of faith, family tragedy and trauma survival saga.… Both moving and enlightening, The Cloister will engross readers.
Shelf Awareness

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