A broad, popular survey of life in Catholic and Anglican religious communities in the United States and Europe which cuts across the organizational and theological complexities of the post Vatican II era. Bernstein begins with a visit to a small Welsh Carmelite convent. As in her less detailed profiles of other orders, both enclosed and active, she outlines the Carmelites' history and their day-to-day rituals via a layman's observation and interviews. Bernstein covers a vast amount of material: the variety of reasons given by sisters for their life's dedication; past and present methods for testing vocation; rites of initiation; celibacy (there is a recent tendency to recognize and accept sexuality); the work of nuns in the secular world; experiments in open and mixed communities; and the changing image of nuns and their role. In the last decade there has been an increasing demand for more responsibility and more sophisticated education for the female religious in a male-dominated church: ""You can't expect intelligent young women with trained minds to sit and listen to the little vision of Sister So-and-so."" Yet in spite of minor matters like changes in habit and major matters like convent democratization, fewer and fewer women are entering convent life and more are leaving; whether or not religious communities can survive is an open question. Bernstein's overreliance on anonymous interview samples thins the research (""a redhaired sister from Detroit says. . .""), but this is an accessible overview for the curious layman.