A former nun recounts her journey in this sensitive debut autobiography.
New Zealander Grogan was a teenager when she decided to devote her life to God. After completing secondary school, she entered the convent at 17, intending a lifetime of service. Conflict first arose with a superior “who seemed to crave affection,” which made Grogan uncomfortable. However, after the author was transferred to teach at a boarding school, she enjoyed her new job and new life. The Roman Catholic Church of the mid-1960s was changing, however, and so was the author, who felt “confined and restricted” at the convent. She talked to a priest about her feelings and later had a physical relationship with him that caused her much grief. With approval from the pope, she left the convent at age 29. The author’s account of her convent years is well-written but sometimes lacks emotion, as if the author is detached from that period of her life. At the time, she never railed against Catholicism but simply raised questions about some of its teachings, such as those regarding childhood confession and contraception; readers might have found it helpful to know the author’s viewpoints today. However, the narrative gains momentum when she writes of reconnecting with old family friend John Grogan in 1975. After a two-month courtship, she married him, and his formerly wild ways led friends to call them “the nun and the bachelor.” They had four young children and lived on a kiwi farm in which John sank all their money, leading to financial failure. The most gripping part of the book, however, comes when her 10-year-old daughter Mary has a stroke just days after her First Communion. At first, readers may find it uplifting to read of Mary’s determined recovery; however, Grogan spends half the book discussing the ups and downs of Mary’s illness when a condensed account might have been more effective. Even so, readers will likely be impressed by the former nun who kept her faith and became a successful wife and mother—on her own terms, not the church’s.
An often rich life story that may speak to women of many faiths.