Lives of the Trappists Today
Email this review


 Bianco, a photojournalist who trained for the priesthood and whose work has appeared in The New York Times and Sports Illustrated, makes his book debut with a mundane look at the mundane life of a reclusive order of Roman Catholic monks. Bianco calls the Trappists the ``elite strike force in the spiritual life,'' a tag that reveals more about his popular approach than about the inner world of these quiet, reverential men. After four months spent living among the Trappists--the first journalist to receive permission to do so, and to publish his results--Bianco catches well the small serenities and squabbles: Should women retreatants be allowed? Should the controversial novel Joshua be read? However, he never dives to spiritual depths. As daily life in the monastery mirrors daily life everywhere else, there's not much here to chew on. Cleverly, Bianco lets the monks speak for themselves--there are big chunks of ``spoken history''- -allowing us to eavesdrop as monks remember why they abandoned the outside world for a new name, a white robe, poverty, and prayer. ``Mac'' (all names are changed) says simply that ``monks want to give God more room in their lives,'' a comment that in its simplicity and directness seems to characterize these would-be saints. One startling episode, as a woman discovers that one of the monks is her long-lost father; otherwise, a photo album in words: respectful, candid, surface-deep. (Nineteen photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 24th, 1991
ISBN: 1-55778-305-5
Page count: 220pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991