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The Novice: A Story of True Love

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  630 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews

Bestselling author and Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh transforms an ancient folktale into a timeless parable of a young woman who dares to risk her life for her faith.

Born to an aristocratic family in rural Vietnam, Kinh Tam's uncommon beauty and intelligence were obvious to all she encountered. From an early age she was drawn to the teachings of Buddha and the rewards of

Hardcover, 144 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by HarperOne (first published August 18th 2011)
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Jan 06, 2013 Vicki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
It is amazing how a book sometimes finds it way to you when you need it most. I've read other books by Thich Nhat Hanh so I knew this would be a great story but I didn't expect it to have such an impact on me, I read it in one sitting. I needed to be reminded of how important it is to forgive. The story line is simple and yet so thought provoking. A young woman who wishes to be a buddhist monk disguises herself as a young man and becomes a novice. Another young woman in the village accuses the " ...more
Tam Lee
Oct 14, 2015 Tam Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled upon this book because I'm planning a short story collection based on Vietnamese folk stories and renovated operas centered around women, and wanted to see if anyone had written a story about Quan Am Thi Kinh in English yet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that one had been written by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, whose name is famous within the Buddhist community. I ordered it immediately.

The volume is thin, but packs a punch. Anyone looking for a bit of spiritual wisdom will be
Jun 27, 2013 Monty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If Buddhism or Guan Yin are not of interest to you, then a two or three star rating would be in order. The story of Kinh Tam and how she became known as Quan Am Thi Kinh (Guan Yin) is elaborated on by Thich Nhat Hanh in an uncomplicated, easy manner, as if he were talking to young people. This teaching style is deceptively simple because it covers several Buddhist principals. I was surprised at the end of the story when I had tears in my eyes. I'm not sure where the tears came from though I susp ...more
♥ Ibrahim ♥
I like the way the story of Kinh is told in a simple, clear and charming style. A child at any age as well as an adult can read or hear this story and enjoy it just as much. Because I am an Easterner, I can relate to that village girl Kinh and know how she exactly must have felt having to deal with frustrated hopes and aspirations and her only problem is that she is a girl in an Eastern society. I like the spiritual nuggets spread here and there as I keep reading the story. A story is meant to b ...more
Mar 23, 2013 Yann rated it liked it
Shelves: mindfulness
Unfortunately I have to agree with some of the reviewers that this book's writing is somewhat off-putting. TNH is one of my favorite authors, and I understand that this is meant as a Buddhist lesson. But still... I could never really get into the story because of the writing, so I might not have learned the lesson as well as I was supposed to... Not a bad book per se but I would basically recommend any other book by TNH rather than this one.
Mar 08, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is not a grand literary read.
However it is very peaceful, and quick and easy. One of those reads that really helps bring peace to the mind.

And it's great because one gets to learn about Vietnamese folk lore... I love to learn things.
Mar 22, 2013 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book is a retelling of the old and very well-known Vietnamese folk tale of Quan The Am (also known as Guan Yi in Chinese and Kannon in Japanese). Quan Am in Vietnamese means to observe or listen deeply to the sounds or cries of the world. She is an important bodhisattva, or enlightened being, in Buddhism.

Told simply and with great feeling by Thich Nhat Hanh, we are taught the Buddhist principles of compassion and loving-kindness.

I would now like to own a copy of this book and read it to my
Bernie Gourley
Feb 03, 2014 Bernie Gourley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Novice is the retelling of a Vietnamese folk tale about a young monk who is repeatedly wronged, but who always does the virtuous thing. As I read this book, I thought the story seemed familiar, and I realized that I read the same story as The Martyr by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa does a much better job of story building. The Japanese writer doesn’t reveal to the reader that Lorenzo (his novice and the equivalent of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Kihn Tâm) is a female until the end—thus definitely reso ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve read several of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books in my life. When I saw this novel in the bookstore at Plum Village Monastery, I was surprised, for I hadn’t known that he had written any fiction. As soon as I got back to the States, I reserved The Novice at my local library and eagerly waited for it to come in.

One of the many things I love about Thich Nhat Hanh is his writing style, something that I’ve recognized in every book of his that I’ve read, and The Novice is no different. At first, it was a
I have to confess: I didn't finish this one. I didn't even make much headway into it because the writing was so amateurish and annoying. The author has written several books and is a poet, so I don't know what went wrong here.

An example of what I mean by amateurish writing, pages 1 and 2:

Waves of turbulent feelings arose rapidly within. Novice Kinh Tam reviewed the precarious situation. "I've taken the monastic vows of a novice. I've just been accused of having a sexual affair with Thi Mau, maki
Nov 28, 2014 Shomeret rated it liked it
This author is a far better Buddhist philosopher than he is a novelist. This is a good thing because there are a great many novelists but only one Thich Nhat Hanh. He provides such clear guidance for Westerners who wish to know the teachings of Vietnamese Zen Buddhism.

What interested me most about the folk tale of Kinh Tam is that the prefix Quan Am was added to her name after her death. This gives her an association with Quan Yin, the Boddhisattva of compassion. Perhaps she is the Vietnamese v
Mar 04, 2013 Daniel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book would be a boring insight into Buddhist Monastic life,if it was about a man.In the area of Vietnam where the Buddhist Monastery is they did not have nuns who practiced in the area,although in this time period they existed.To compare and contrast,if a person leaves his or her gender role,they commit a grave and mortal sin in the Catholic Church.Taking a false vow or a deception can be equally frowned on in Buddhism.Doing thing in a prayerful and relatively slow and mindful way is a lot l ...more
Mar 17, 2012 Jodi added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No sure
Quiet book about a Vietnamese monk who is really a woman. Kinh Tam marries according to tradition but it doens't work out so she leaves her family and disguises herself as a man so she can join a monastery. She loves being a monk but her life is threatened when a local woman in the village accuses her of being the father of her baby. A dilemma presents itself - does she take the severe beating and scandal so that she can hopefully continue life in the monsastery or does she reveal her secret to ...more
James Thelman
Aug 10, 2012 James Thelman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is indubitably an amazing tale. The only reason I didn't give it five stars is this: though the tale stands perfectly well, it's set in a time before DNA testing, etc., and the ridiculously close-mindedness of judgmental folks in a caste system. I realise that modernity is definitely not the point of the book, but it did steal a little from the enjoyment of reading it. That said, the story translates to any situation in the modern world, meaning how people deal with difficult circumstances. ...more
Aban (Aby)
Although I gave this a three star rating for literary merit, the value of this book deserves the highest rating any book can obtain. The author, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen Buddhist monk and teacher ( nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967) has retold the ancient story of Kinh Tam (a young woman who joined a monastic order and who suffered innumerable hardships) in order to show us how to live with compassion and understanding. He teaches us that our true home is within ourselves and that it is ...more
Mar 21, 2016 Suchita rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Considering the subject, story line of this book is not at all gravitation. It does reflect the positive aspects of practicing meditation, having patience, compassion, empathy and an open heart for others but in a very dramatic way.
"A young woman who wishes to be a Buddhist monk disguises herself as a young man and becomes a novice. Another young woman in the village accuses the "monk" of raping her and impregnating her."

Felt like reading a D grade Chetan Bhagat's book. :P
A dramaturgical!
The primary story, of a young Buddhist monk in historical Vietnam, is appealing in its own right and teaches many basic principles of Buddhism. It's inspiring in a low-key way, if one is inclined toward unerring loving-kindness toward everyone. The two afterwords are interesting for their history of Thich Nhat Hanh's work throughout his life.

Not going to set the world on fire, but a good, short spiritual read for those interested in Buddhism and Nhat Hanh's work.
Levette Marie
Jul 28, 2012 Levette Marie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Levette Marie by: Myself
Shelves: favorites
It's been a long time since I have been moved to tears as I was during this book. Such a beautiful story of strength, compassion, and love. All people in this world could benefit from reading this book. I just picked it up today and started reading it 2 hours ago. I couldn't put it down until I was finished. I am in love with reading. ~Levette
Oct 02, 2011 Denise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! Once again, Thay Thich Nhat Hahn knocks your socks off and rearranges your thinking about life, how others should be treated, and how we all should deal with others (can you say compassion, be more accepting?) The message at the end by Sister Chan Khong is heart rendering.
Mar 20, 2012 Nam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't compare good books, but I have to say that this is truly the best book I have ever read. Highly recommend, especially the epilogue.
Jordan Duncan
May 20, 2017 Jordan Duncan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
The author may be a Zen master, but a novelist he is not. Call it what it is, a Buddhist pamphlet. This could have been so much more with a bit of editing advice, a bit of development of characters and sitautions. It's all surface. Nothing is explained; how is this "deep thinking" carried out? And what does thinking about a past situation do to change it? If you're looking for a novel, you won't find it in this superficial booklet; if you're looking for Buddhist practice (whatever he means by "p ...more
Mono Venus
Jun 02, 2017 Mono Venus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ligerito y bien bonito, si lo quieren se los paso.
Mar 09, 2017 Eri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Es un libro que contiene una gran enseñanza; que habla de algo que suele ser muy difícil de lograr para la humanidad. El nivel de compasión y amor de Kinh Tam es demasiado grande.
Se lee con mucha facilidad ya que es muy corto.
Completamente recomendado.
Angie crosby
Feb 19, 2017 Angie crosby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyone should read this book, no matter your religion.
Maya Goode
If you are interested in a novelization of an old parable this in not the book for you. I honestly think the same applies if you have no interest in buddhist thought at all; though, I think many non-buddhist would gain insight with this tiny book. It's not a novel and shouldn't be expected to be one. It reads a lot like the stories my old Abbot would tell us during services after we sat Zazen. It's conversational storytelling and uses simple language. You will find most of Buddhas teachings and ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Kunal rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a ok book about a famous Vietnamese folktale. A young teenage girl ends up getting married to a young man and the man finds her one day with scissors trying to cut off some of his hair while he is sleeping, but he misinterprets it as she trying to kill him and they end up separating. She then starts to discover the life of being a monk and realizes that is what she wants to be, however she has to disguise herself as a man as woman aren't allowed to practice. A woman ends up falling in lo ...more
Aug 01, 2016 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those with a desire to meditate.
Recommended to Donna by: Susan Helmstetter
Brilliant book.

Loved this story--was spellbound, and have a greater appreciate for the art of meditation. Read in one day, I will embrace the message this books brings forth.

My dear friend, Susan recommended this book to me, and I made sure to put THE NOVICE on my Kindle to bring to the shore. I was on the beach, and started the book on Saturday morning, and could not out it down....
Such a beautiful story, I finished it in one sitting.

Kink Tam's story of ultimate love and presence was perfection
David James
Dec 04, 2016 David James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Divided into two parts, The Novice starts with an account of the Buddhist tale of faith, transcending love, loyalty and rising above lower emotions and finishes with an account of the Buddhist lineage of self extension as divine practice in war time Vietnam. Ascension through service is both a topical and enduring theme and as usual Thich Nhat Hanh managed the material with emphasis yet light touch. A teacher once asked me to notice how eventually character shows on every face yet this story goe ...more
This is a retelling of an old Vietnamese folk tale by Thich Nhat Hanh. It should definitely be read as a Buddhist lesson, rather than as literature. If you read it as literature, it will be disappointing, but as an example of what the principle of loving-kindness looks like, then it is a useful read.

There is an afterward, written by the a disciple of Thich Nhat Hanh, that tells of the ways in which the story of Hanh and his followers are parallel to the tale of The Novice: A Story of True Love.
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Thích Nhất Hạnh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who now lives in southwest France where he was in exile for many years. Born Nguyễn Xuân Bảo, Thích Nhất Hạnh joined a Zen (Vietnamese: Thiền) monastery at the age of 16, and studied Buddhism as a novitiate. Upon his ordination as a monk in 1949, he assumed the Dharma name Thích Nhất Hạnh. Thích is an honorary ...more
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“Listening to the bell I feel the afflictions in me begin to dissolve. My mind becomes calm, my body relaxed, and a smile is born on my lips. Following the sound of the bell, my breath guides me back to the safe island of mindfulness. In the garden of my heart, the flower of peace blooms beautifully.” 1 likes
“May the sound of this bell penetrate deeply into the cosmos. In even the darkest places, may living beings hear it clearly so that understanding comes to their hearts, and without much hardship, they transcend the cycle of birth and death. or:” 0 likes
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