Hungry for a good read?
two hundred eighty-one pages of deliciousness you don’t want to pass up. I now know why the book won the 2005 PEN Beyond Margins Award for Best Memoir and received an enthusiastic thumbs up from
. In it, the author does what good writers should: She takes me on a journey, shows me something beautiful, and makes me not want to come back.
the period of time in which the author, Faith, on the verge of flunking out of college, takes some “time off” from school. But unlike most students, who travel to Paris or Italy, backpacks in tow, Faith Adiele travels to the Far East—to the remote areas of Thailand. A self-declared sociologist, she jumps head first (and hairless might I add) into a Thai wat seeking to understand Buddhism and women’s roles in the religion. (Are you sensing her ardent commitment?) She exchanges comfort, pleasure, and daily communication for a commitment to refrain from entertainment, touching money, all forms of entertainment, sleeping on soft surfaces, and consuming food at inappropriate times, which is most of the time. Sound fun?
The reader follows Faith as she attempts to live by seemingly impossible rules (
try not killing a single bug while living in a forest!), watching her comical failures and her thrilling successes. Pushed by her teacher, Maechi Roongduan, she progresses, so that what once seemed impossible for Faith’s mind and body becomes customary.
Fusing together journal entries, detailed sociologist’s notes, classic Buddhist texts, and childhood memories, Faith weaves together a tale of her time with a group of Thailand’s maechi (Buddhist nuns) that is educational, yet extremely
personal. Faith learns that while studying them, she must examine herself, and in discovering their faith, she must uncover her own as well.
Yes, this book is about faith, but it is just as much about identity—what defines us—what drives us. And whether you are a person of faith or one who is searching, I would definitely recommend meeting Faith because she writes with an honesty that is refreshing and challenging. With bravery and beauty, she bares her being:
“…The surprising decision to ordain and what I learned during my short, short tenure as a nun revised the very premises of my life. I’d been raised to believe in myself, in intellect, in the Western tenets of self and science, and I’d taught myself not to fail. Soon everything I knew and counted on would be stripped away. As it turned out, failure was the first step toward real life.”