Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Monk Downstairs” as Want to Read:
The Monk Downstairs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Monk Downstairs (Monk)

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,356 Ratings  ·  204 Reviews
Rebecca Martin is a single mother with an apartment to rent and a sense that she has used up her illusions. I had the romantic thing with my first husband, thank you very much, she tells a hapless suitor. I'm thirty-eight years old, and I've got a daughter learning to read and a job I don't quite like. I don't need the violin music. But when the new tenant in her in-law ap ...more
Paperback, 1st edition
Published 2002 by Harper Collins
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Monk Downstairs, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Monk Downstairs

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,195)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jun 17, 2016 Sherry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-this-year
Fantastic novel! A former monk rents an apartment from a cynical single mom and as their relationship deepens both find hope for the future. Filled with warmth, gentle humour, and intelligent writing, this book was one I didn't want to end. Luckily for me, there is a sequel- The Monk Upstairs!
Oct 05, 2008 Christa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Monk Downstairs was a sweet and very different love story. Both the hero and heroine had many issues to deal with from their respective pasts. Michael Christopher has just left a monastery after twenty years as a monk. He is disenchanted with life, and doesn't believe happiness is in his future. Rebecca Martin is a single mom who has all but given up on finding love. These two characters are flawed, and both have issues to deal with that stand in the way of a relationship together, but watch ...more
Jennifer James
Jun 15, 2014 Jennifer James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book years ago, quite by accident, while browsing at a bookstore. What a lovely discovery.

The Monk Downstairs is basically a love story: a jaded, smart single mom (Rebecca) with all the kooky baggage that comes with that title rents an extra room to a kind, spiritually lost, wanderer (Mike) who turns out to be a runaway monk with a penchant for gardening, cigarettes, meditation, and candor. Their relationship grows into a romantic one, and the story tells how.

But what makes thi
Aug 09, 2008 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised by how much I liked this book--not being religious myself, I was dubious about how much I could be pulled into the story of an ex-monk and a middle aged single mom with one child. That I was pulled in to this quietly contemplative novel is, I think, a testament to the artistry of the author (who is male, by the way, and creates a very convincing and deep female character.) What touched me most about this novel was its portrayal of grief and the characters' reactions to it. It was ...more
Jun 12, 2007 Salimah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the current cover of this book is a disappointing cop out. I own this book in hardback, with an original, much more poetic cover (a sepia photograph of a woman's foot and a bit of her dress), but I digress.

I dreamt in the language of this book for days. After I was finished I held it for a long, long time...

I was in love with this monk, who is sexual, charming, innocent, funny, spirited, and true believer, and who makes a believer of the woman who loves him. If you'd like to read a compelling
Aug 10, 2007 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this one. I don't have a crappy ex-husband or a monk living downstairs - but I think this book was well written. She captured the brittle way that damaged people guard their privacy and their hearts, and how difficult it is to let anyone in.
I have the new book, The Monk Upstairs, and look forward to reading it.
Brenda (b)
I read several enthusiastic reviews about this book and was curious so I picked it up. It was a terrific story. Since its genre is fiction rather than romance, it wasn't from my normal reading category, but one of the main elements of the story is the development of the romantic relationship between Rebecca and Michael. I was pulled into their struggle with their feelings for one another and trying to make their lives work together. The other element was that of religious belief and I'll admit t ...more
Mary Helene
Jul 05, 2007 Mary Helene rated it really liked it
How often do we read about the real spiritual lives of people? It's more elusive than sex. This book includes all of it - a lovely romance and a struggle for faith. I was sorry for it to end, and delighted to hear there's a sequel.
An unexpectedly good love story, unexpectedly written by a man. There is something fascinating about the idea of an ex-monk, and Farrington deftly makes use of it. It is a sweet, engaging tale--not at all over the top.
Jun 06, 2016 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A sweet yet realistic modern romance with a thought-provoking spiritual twist that made for a surprisingly pleasant read. Rebecca and Mike (aka, the titular monk living downstairs) both carry with them plenty of mundane baggage and enough life experience to harbor no romantic illusions, making theirs a refreshingly mature love story. With her wry sense of humor and pragmatic approach to life, Rebecca is especially relatable. For a member of the male persuasion, author Tim Farrington is surprisin ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I raced through this book in one day -- not because it was slight, but because the prose was so graceful and easy to read, the characters so engaging, and the spiritual aspect so deft but satisfying, that I simply could not put it down.

Mike, a monk who has fled his monastery after eighteen(?) years, rents a basement apartment from Rebecca, a divorced single mother disillusioned by life, but fiercely loving toward her daughter and mother. Mike is a contemplative who spent more than a decade in c
Bill Glose
Aug 14, 2013 Bill Glose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lost monk finds his way again through his upstairs neighbor. A cynical, single mother learns to hope again through her downstairs tenant. At its core, The Monk Downstairs is a love story, but it is so much more. Farrington’s storytelling is philosophical, spiritual, and whimsical, and somehow he pulls off this complex mix without seeming condescending. As the single mother and the monk downstairs move past earlier, regrettable decisions into an unknown future, readers can’t help being filled w ...more
Jan 12, 2012 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a warm and intelligent book about a single mother who rents the basement apartment in her house to a man just leaving a monastery after 20 years as a monk. I found it on the book sharing shelf of a business in my neighborhood. The monk, Michael Christopher, ends up getting a job at McDonald's and some of the reflections on his work there, shared through letters with Brother James back at the monastery, are wonderful. " my colleagues at McDonald's put it, "My bad."...The ritual respo ...more
Nov 09, 2008 Andi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some weeks ago someone (identify yourself if you will) reviewed this book on their blog, and I thought - well, I should read that. Now, usually I think that, put it on a list, and don't get back to it for years or decades. But this book - The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington - actually came through BookMooch right away, and I happened to want to read something romantic but not silly. So last night, there I was finishing the book in an evening - I can't remember the last time that happened with ...more
May 16, 2008 Anne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I borrowed this book based on the title alone. Who wouldn't want to read a book about a monk living downstairs? In this case, an ex-monk, who has left his monastery, disenchanted with his life of prayer and inaction. He moves into the in-law unit of single mom, Rebecca, who has decided once and for all that she no longer needs love in her life. Her 6-year old daughter plays with unicorns, adores her good-for-nothing surfer father, and takes an immediate liking to Michael Christopher, the monk. O ...more
Nov 24, 2008 Heidi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While I enjoyed the conversations between Rebecca and the monk and how their relationship grew, the book became weighed down with what was supposed to be deep spiritual thoughts, but I found to be nothing more than vain rhetoric meant to make the author sound smart. Is the monk life a manifestation of religious conviction or escape from the responsibilities of the real world? I guess the monastic life seems like a waste to me. Who are you serving, but yourself if all you do is pray and in the ca ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Ana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful surprise

I have a soft spot for books about people who are "God haunted" so I was of course drawn to a book about an ex-monk. This book is not so much about religion and it's disillusionment it's about more. It is a love story but also this thoughtful meditation about what it means to live "in the world" and balancing living a life with being contemplative. The tone is meditative and thoughtful. The writing is rich, and descriptive. I read it slowly and savored every well crafted sent
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kayne Spooner
Dec 31, 2011 Kayne Spooner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story is about a single mother that rents her downstairs apartment to a Monk going through a crisis of faith. The book is full of eccentrics and thoughtful humor. I heard Julia Roberts ahd bought the movie rights and wish she would get around to making this movie! I was glad to see the sequel, A Monk Upstairs, come out and would love to see another.
Writer's Relief
As the disillusioned, divorced mother of six-year-old Mary Martha, Rebecca Martin has put any notions of love and romance behind her. Rebecca is dating Bob--more for something to do than because she has a genuine romantic interest in him. Despite Rebecca’s attempts to keep things casual, Bob convinces himself that they have a “Relationship” and proposes. Rebecca refuses, telling him (and herself) that she is not interested in another shot at love.

Michael Christopher is also dealing with trouble
Valerie Petersen
Mar 14, 2013 Valerie Petersen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book presents a straight-forward plot, i.e., a 38-year old single mother of one rents her garage apartment to a former monk who has renounced the monastic life after 20 years. She is lonely, just ending an unsatisfactory relationship with a maybe-I-should-settle-for-less boyfriend; he is a contemplative, looking for silence rather than love. The blossoming of their relationship is rocky because her personal problems and his need for apartness both intrude.

It's not quite a typical love story
Sep 01, 2008 Grace rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm not one to look for more God in books, but this one, considering it's title, needs it. I was intrigued with the supposed premise, stated on the back cover quite boldly as: What do you do when God is the other woman? However, the fact that the main character's love interest is a monk hardly plays into the story aside from a couple token religious scenes. He doesn't shower immediately after sex (Sex and the City reference) or flog himself for his bodily desires (a la Dimmesdale in the Scarlet ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Tania rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
-- thought provoking, would recommend.


Maybe that was what real love was, being willing to charge toward the busy, noisy place that someone else inhabited and find what comfort there you could. p140

She felt like making phone calls: to Bonnie, to her mother. The situation called for consideration at length. But she suspected that both women would be unreservedly supportive of the kiss and its potential consequences. Bonnie believed that love could be competently assembled from availa
I recently did a health fair for work, and had to share a table with the Fairfax County Public Library's NLS for the Disabled representative. We got to talking books since she had a couple of my old favorites on display and then it turned out we were both in book clubs. So she asked what kind of books we were reading and I asked her what book her club was currently reading, and she said they like to read women's fiction that's not chick lit, and they were reading this book, The Monk Downstairs, ...more
Oct 16, 2011 Judy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca, the female protagonist, & Mike, the male counterpoint, each had issues from their pasts that needed excavating, & at times, Rebecca seemed incredibly slow. Events seemed to be needed for her to either explore within her mind or, God forbid, with a boyfriend! She's had bad boyfriend luck thus far, one of whom became her husband & father of their daughter, Mary Margaret.

I liked Rebecca's mom, Phoebe. She lives in Bolinas, surrounds herself with interesting people & has a
Jul 10, 2014 Gillian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great modern love story with the addition of odd element: A monk who has left the monastery. The contrast of monastic themes of passivity vs. action and the reality of a single mom's working life works well and entertains in this book. Add an elderly sick parent and a hopeless ex-husband, her other realities, and you have a satisfying and insightful read into all situations. This was a page-turner for me. Can't wait to read the sequel: The Monk Upstairs.
Aug 08, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-faves
Stirring, beautiful, sad, joyful, and fully grounded in the bits of daily life. I kept thinking of Graham Greene as I read this quiet, strong novel - The End of the Affair meets The Power and the Glory. Somehow lyrical insights of the deepest things are scattered among a simple love story between a single mom and the man she meets. Also loved Mike's letters to a friend back in the monastery - we only read Mike's replies, but somehow know every word of his friend's side of the discussion. And the ...more
Jun 28, 2008 Blaire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I loved this book!
It's a love story that is told with great perceptiveness and tenderness. I was really impressed by the author's ability to get inside his female protagonist's head. All of the characters were well-imagined, and their interactions were very believable.
It's also a sort of meditation on how one pursues a spiritual path through life, and on that level it's just as successful. It's incredibly hard to write about spiritual matters without sounding either trite or pedantic. Farringt
Dec 31, 2010 Janice rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Though 'The Monk Downstairs' was certainly a sweet love story I soon tired of the endless struggle that Mike (the ex-monk) had with his desire to lead a secular life after leaving the monastery. In fact the struggle that author Tim Farrington kept trying to bring to the surface did not exist with Mike as much as it did with his landlady, the charming and lovely Rachel who was afraid to fall in love and thus become susceptible to hurt. Another criticism I have were the detailed sex scene which co ...more
Feb 29, 2016 Peggy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh, this book appealed to me on so many levels
1) set in San Francisco and Bolinas, a nutty, spiritual, hippie throwback 'village' in Marin County, areas I know well
2) realistic conflicts faced by single mother
3) the not so subtle overtones of Catholicism
4) modest and interesting meditations on faith, both contemplative and active
5) very accurate portrayal of her 1st husband and his Peter Pan never-grow-up philosophy
6) quiet struggles of the monk who has left the monastery after 20 yrs and moved
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 73 74 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes
  • The Pieces from Berlin
  • The Sandy Bottom Orchestra
  • Miss Understanding
  • A Window Across the River
  • After the Workshop: A Novel
  • Calling Home
  • Secrets of the TSIL Cafe
  • The Last of the Honky-Tonk Angels (Lucy Hatch, #2)
  • Jackson's Pond, Texas
  • Blessed Are the Bored in Spirit: A Young Catholic's Search for Meaning
  • Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story
  • Last Summer
  • Liars Anonymous
  • The Air Between Us
  • Mr. Lincoln's Wars: A Novel in Thirteen Stories
  • All We Know of Love
  • Like a Hole in the Head

Other Books in the Series

Monk (2 books)
  • The Monk Upstairs: A Novel

Share This Book

“We are born to love as we are born to die, and between the heartbeats of those two great mysteries lies all the tangled undergrowth of our tiny lives. There is nowhere to go but through. And so we walk on, lost, and lost again, in the mapless wilderness of love.” 280 likes
“...he smelled like somebody trying to smell like somebody else.” 2 likes
More quotes…