As an agnostic the idea of taking religious vows seems completely bizarre to me, and I think that even for many religious people the idea of sacrificing their normal life seems a tough, alien idea. So, the chance to read about one young woman’s experiences of taking vows was an interesting one, even if Annie Kontor is open about the fact she didn’t stay more than a year.
Kontor starts her account of the year by addressing that she spent years wanting to join a convent and the reactions of the people in her life when she told them of her decision.
Kontor tells her story month-by-month and it makes for interesting reading as she shows what life in the order is like. She details her triumphs and struggles during this time, the struggles growing as she chafes against the strict confines of life as a Nun and also her issues with anxiety and depression.
Kontor is brutally honest at times, not holding back on the struggles and her actions but there are sections where she makes for a frustrating narrator. While she acknowledges that she acted badly in some instances and was hard to live with she still heaps judgement on the other sisters, criticising them for not being able to deal with a depressed girl.
This angry lashing out feels petulant and extremely self absorbed, not even considering how her angry, withdrawn and openly hostile behaviour must have been a struggle to live with, especially to other young women in a similar situation and no doubt experiencing struggles of their own.
There’s a petulance on her part as well that grates, and Kontor, while accepting her mistakes offers few apologies and does point fingers. She also complains about her fellow sisters talking about her behaviour behind her back, despite having done the same with other sisters.
While depression is a serious issue and it no doubt would have been incredibly different for Kontor to change her behaviour at the time, or considered its effect on others, but even years later in reflection she seems biased and more focused on her own feelings than how her behaviour effected others.
It’s a reasonably interesting book and Kontor is definitely put through the wringer, but her writing lacks depth or insight to raise this book, and while it’s good to see behind the convent door, one can’t help regretting that we weren’t provided a more insightful and even handed guide to this world.
Verdict: An interesting, if frustrating, read. Kontor offers a unique perspective but at times seems blinkered regarding her responsibility for events, but she writes well enough. 5/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.