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Mariette in Ecstasy

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  2,495 ratings  ·  297 reviews
The highly acclaimed and provocatively rendered story of a young postulant's claim to divine possession and religious ecstasy.

In 1906, a beautiful seventeen year old postulant enters the convent of the Sisters of the Crucifixion in upstate New York. When she begins to bleed from her hands, feet, and side, the entire community is thrown into turmoil. Is Mariette a cunning s
Paperback, 180 pages
Published January 1st 1991 by Harper Perennial
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  2,495 ratings  ·  297 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Apr 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Mariette is a strange, beautiful young (20) woman who has just entered a convent, the second daughter of a wealthy doctor to enter that order, to dad's chagrin. There is the cut and paste of varying timelines, as we jump back and forth between a later interview with and about her, juxtaposed with earlier events as they unfold. The writing is lush, incorporating rich color set against a plain background, scents permeate the senses. A splash of red on the young woman's bathrobe offers the merest h ...more
mark monday
She sings a song to God, who listens. God in return gives her pain, sadness, loneliness, and above all else, love. God cherishes the martyrs and Mariette walks the martyr way, a thorny path and a bloody one. She sings a song about her love for God, and some of her sisters listen while others turn away, or seek to silence her song. She will sing on, relentless, to believers and disbelievers, true and false friends alike. She cannot help herself: she embraces her ecstasy, her martyrdom. Perhaps sh ...more
Dec 18, 2007 rated it did not like it
What a disappointment. I slogged through the present-tense narration (a huge pet peeve of mine), the incomplete sentences, the lifeless dialogue, and the thin plot, waiting for revelation or insight or... heck, anything to surface. Nothing did. No character development, no plot development, no meat. If only the author had chosen to develop his story instead of just the “voice” of the piece, he might have created something magical, because there’s a potentially great and moving novel buried at th ...more
Incredible story. I'm still not sure if I can write a review of it as I just finished it less than an hour ago. It's the kind of book I would have LOVED to have read in a devout Catholic book group, but only a prayerful group of practicing Catholics who actually live what they believe.

But then on further reflection, I try to imagine really discussing the book in a group setting and I think it would ruin it. It's such a deeply personal book, as is Mariette's experience in the story and yours whe
Jun 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
A few weeks ago I was walking on my street and came upon a book sale on a neighbor's stoop. It was surprising what they were unloading -- not the usual unpopular, unloved cast offs but stuff you'd actually heard of and would want to own -- and all at a gleeful, hands-rubbing-together 25 cents a pop. Crazy.

Impressed with the collection, I got to talking about books with the neighbors, a couple who were moving to the west coast where they are both planning to pursue PhDs in lit. A few minutes into
Suzanne Fox
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It's my belief that very varied reviews, by readers and professional critics, are sometimes signs that something really interesting is going on--that an author has taken a real risk, made a really strong commitment to a particular style, story, strategy. Such is the case here. Folks will, and do, have strong reactions in both directions to the sparseness of the prose, the emphasis on imagery, and of course the author's refusal to answer the novel's most obvious question, the legitimacy (if one c ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The complexity of this novel belies its simplicity. We are inside a Benedictine class of monastery, and a new novice, Mariette, has been taken in, a young woman of seventeen, passionately devout but filled with all the other fervors a young woman would have. In the course of a few months, Mariette starts having extreme religious experiences (or perhaps the continuation of such experiences from before she entered the priory), climaxing with physically formed stigmata followed by a coma-like ecsta ...more
Sonia Gomes
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Sonia by: Marc Monday and I thank him!
This book overwhelms me... It guides me towards pity and compassion for after all what are religions?
Nothing but compassion and love for another Human Being...

I thank Marc Monday for suggesting this immensely beautiful book. His amazing review is what led me to Mariette. Thank you Marc.

‘We are like the tides here. We come and go. We don’t hurry; we don’t worry; we try not to wrestle too much with our inner torments and petty irritations’

‘Ever since I have grown older, I have forgotten all my h
Mariette Baptiste is a 17 year old girl, in very deep love with God, who becomes a postulant in the Order of The Sisters of Crucifixion. The day she enters is August 15, 1906. The convent is situated in New York and has French culture in its history and background.

It seems that immediately upon Mariette's entering the convent, there is a faction who is enthralled with her and a faction that is jealous of her. After a period of time, Mariette experiences the stigmata (the wounds of Christ showing
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
As another reviewer put it, "spare, lyrical and devotional." The story of Mariette, postulant in a convent in upstate New York at the turn of the century, progresses through the liturgical year. The stark, descriptive prose gave me an almost visceral feel for the rural locale. Mariette brings an innocent ferver to her prayer life and that of the order, until she begins having trances or ecstasies followed by stigmata that heal almost as spontaneously as they appear. This eventually causes divisi ...more
Pamela  (Here to Read Books and Chew Gum)
A beautifully written book that explores the deep connection between a young postulant and her faith. It is written in a rather minimalist style evoking through its use of language, a true sense of convent life. A deep and touching exploration of religious fervour and the social issues that come with being cloistered.
(3.5) Set in an upstate New York convent mostly in 1906–7, this is a story of religious fervor, doubt and jealousy. Mariette Baptiste is a 17-year-old postulant; her (literal) sister, 20 years older, is the prioress here. Mariette is given to mystical swoons and, just after the Christmas mass, also develops the stigmata. Her fellow nuns are divided: some think that Mariette is a saint who is bringing honor to their organization, but others believe she has fabricated her calling and is vain enoug ...more
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-and-loved
Jinkies! Nun so black!

Well, if you can write as well about nuns and Jesse James, you're already one hell of an author. I would probably read Hansen's shopping lists.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
One and a half stars for this book which does an incredible job of hiding bricks under hats. The choppy, telegraphic writing "style" (inverted commas intended) makes it seem more like an aborted screenplay; in fact I first thought that was what it was. The book resonates heavily with other, earlier works by other authors: think The Nun's Story (from which two scenes are lifted, practically entire), think Agnes of God, think Extramuros, and certainly many phrases, events and even names taken from ...more
Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As it is evident here among the Good Readers, some may not like this novel. Non Catholics may not understand some ideas in this book. If you are hoping for a gripping and compelling plot, you'd probably get disappointed because in my opinion, this is a novel which explores the diverse nature of religious faith: how people always long for mystical spiritual experiences, yet when they are faced with it, they lack belief.

Perhaps the best part of this book is its ambiguous ending that leaves enough
Aug 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This short novel rests on the reader’s attitude toward and perception of mystical religious experiences. In 1906, in an inconsequential cloistered community of nuns, a young postulant arrives claiming ecstatic trances and religious locutions. In the months that follow, these become more dramatic, including the stigmata. But are these genuine mystical phenomenon? Or are they self-induced injuries, are they psychosomatic manifestations of some form of hysteria? The question is left to each reader ...more
Sep 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mariette, a 17 year old postulant in an upstate New York nunnery at the turn of the last century develops stigmata upon arriving. The meat of the book is devoted to how this divides the nunnery’s residents into two camps, one blind with adoration, the other bristling with spiteful envy.

This is a very odd book. I enjoyed reading it, largely for the author’s extraordinary skill as a stylist. In a novel in which not very much happens -- well, except stigmata-- and in a setting to which this secular
Tom Kopff
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a treasure. It is the story of Mariette, a young postulant in the convent of the Sisters of the Crucifixion. Set n 1906, this story has a bit of the feel of visiting a lost world, but on the whole I think it transcends the dated setting. Mariette is a source of controversy as soon as she enters the convent. Is she as saintly as she seems, is she delusional, or is she putting on an act. The sisters are divided, and there is no easy way to determine the truth.

Mr. Hansen is clearly we
Oct 15, 2019 rated it liked it
The writing is gorgeous and effortless. In a kind of literary pointilism, Hansen builds a convincing portrait of a 1906 monastery of Benedictine women. The house has French/Belgian origins and a strict enclosure. Mariette Baptiste is received by the community as a 17 year-old postulant. She is also the actual sister of the Mother Superior, and Hansen occasionally offers a delicate hint that Mariette's vocation may be, in fact, following her sister's example.

He has a jeweler's eye for community l
Barbara Ellison
I'm reading the six "reviews" below and shaking my head in absolute disbelief--"intriguing" and "well-written" are not terms that you can apply to this thin slice of prose disguised as a novel. There is very little narrative flow to this book as it is written as a sequence of short bursts of unrelated information almost like a draft outline a writer would use to help guide him to write a work of more complexity. But if you wanted to allow for this format being the "novel" idea, then what is writ ...more
Alika Tanaka Yarnell
Sep 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: People who claim they have the marks of stigmata
Shelves: fiction, faves
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
There’s an old friction in Christianity between the longing for mystical experience and the keep-your-head-down plodding work of the humble, devotional life. Hansen’s book succeeds best when he keeps to this theme, exploring the jealousies and factionalism that erupt at an upstate New York convent when a teenage postulant suffers a series of increasingly intense mystical experiences.

Unfortunately, Mariette in Ecstasy also suffers from a bad case of what I like to call “Writer’s-Workshopitis.” I
Feb 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: elegance, minimalism
I’m tempted to call this story a spiritual mystery novel, but Hansen allows the central question of Mariette Baptiste’s stigmatic experiences to remain an enigma, without explanation or explicit verification. And this is how it should be. Hansen’s prose here is simply a delight: spare, lyrical, and devotional. With the novel’s subject matter and quiet, measured pacing, it’s certainly a book that requires the reader to be in the “right mood” to appreciate it, but, that said, it is truly a fine pi ...more
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Spare, haunting book about the mysterious events at a convent in 1906. Really liked this one.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A full five stars. This book is probably not for everyone, but I found it haunting, fascinating, compelling. The writing is spare, the descriptions lyrical. It is a rich, complex book exploring the tension between faith and skepticism, truth and deception. The story itself is a mystery, the prose is so tight that it's like unpacking poetry. A bit of work, for those who are willing to do it, but definitely worth the effort. ...more
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
I can't say I've liked Mr. Hansen's other work so much, but this book rings with a lyricism that is rare, so perhaps one novel of this caliber in a person's lifetime is enough. Some passages read like poetry, and there is an intimacy in the tone that draws the reader in. Please don't think you wouldn't want to read a book about nuns! Give it a chance and you'll likely be happy you did. ...more
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good Catholics novels are always corporal: messy, strange, steeped in sin, because sin, no matter how disfiguring, has a central role in the drama of redemption (cf. Graham Greene, Flannery O'Connor, etc). But, this novel deals perhaps less with sin and more with the uncertainty of faith...or the uncertain leap of faith. I truly loved this one! ...more
Rebecca Grace
Jan 29, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Rebecca Grace by: Stephen O'Neil
Shelves: fiction
I'm sorry, but this book was just stupid. It turned out the person who recommended it to me hadn't even read it himself. What a tragic waste of time when there are so many worthwhile books out there waiting to be read and so few opportunities to read them! ...more
Charles Lewis
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant account of the mystery of faith confronting the ordinary. Hansen is probably one of the best American writers living today. He's incredibly versatile: not one of his books is like any other. ...more
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Hanson writes like an angel. I'm not sure why, but this felt like it should be a 400-page epic with multiple plot strands, rather than a slim novella. ...more
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Ron Hansen is the author of two story collections, two volumes of essays, and nine novels, including most recently The Kid, as well as The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which was made into an Oscar-nominated film. His novel Atticus was a finalist for the National Book Award. He teaches at Santa Clara University.

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