Jane's Reviews > Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life

Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
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Feb 01, 12

Read from December 29, 2011 to February 01, 2012

I came to this book with high expectations, since I loved her other books. I loved sections of this book as well, particularly her stories of her own encounters with acedia, and the stories that arose from her marriage to David Dwyer, also a poet. My problems were with chapters that consisted of one quotation after another. It became boring, induced acedia, as though I were reading a text of the history of acedia as told by Christian mystics and philosophers. Eventually I skimmed. But the passages that kept me reading were exquisite, and described an emotional/spiritual desert that is familiar to me. The book is passionate about language, even language that describes the complete absence of passion. Norris also describes the monastic cures for acedia--prayer, the psalms, repetition, ordinary life...she cite a study that describes the importance of ordinary rituals and routines--the study monitored the daily habits of couples to determine what habits prouced good and stable marriages..they found one ritual--the embracing of one's spouse at the beginning and the end of day. It didn't seem to matter if your heart was always in it, a perfunctory peck on the cheek made a difference in the quality of the relationship. She writes, "Whatever you do repeatedly has the power to shape you, has the power to make you over into a different person, even if you aren't 'engaged' in every minute."

It's a book to return to when acedia rears its head, but I'll go directly to those passages that spoke to me...there were a dozen...as well as the heartbreaking chapter in which Norris cares for her husband during the final years of his illness.
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