Friday, May 24, 2013

Reading: Mariette In Ecstasy by Ron Hansen

Set in the first decade of the 20th century prior to the Second Vatican Council, Mariette in Ecstasy is the haunting story about 17 year old Mariette Baptiste who joins a convent at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in upstate New York.  Her being there has a profound affect on the usual quiet of the convent because of her intense devotion to Jesus.  She is young, pretty, and full of life and brings a breath of fresh air with her to the convent.  What also differentiates Mariette from the other postulate's is that she goes into frequent prayerful ecstasy and her sisters are either in awe of her, jealous of her, or annoyed with her.  Some yearn to be close to Mariette because of unique demeanor while others tend to stay away because they feel she is threatening the harmony of the traditional convent.  Mariette's ecstasy soon turns into a series of stigmata's and with these stigmata's comes havoc.  The convent, and the reader, are forced to discern if Mariette is all faith or fraud.  
“God is there before me in the being of all that is not him” page 179
Author Ron Hansen writes rich naturalistic prose in Mariette in Ecstasy.  He has the power to take the ordinary and convert it into an extraordinary passage.  From the blades of grass to the arches of the church, Hansen describes it all with ease.  Hansen also does an excellent job at combining the ordinary with the divine.  He makes it clear that God is there in everything and everywhere.  

The story itself is very enriching one for anyone of faith or not of faith.  Hansen does not shove his spiritual beliefs down the reader’s throat but gives the church and the convent a realistic and inviting feel.  Each character is fleshed out perfectly through body language and dialogue.  The book is a quick read and is refreshing, like Mariette is to the convent, in that it takes Christianity and makes it literary.  So often Christian “literature” can hardly be called literature but Mariette in Ecstasy deserves to be on the shelf next to other literary classics.  The book also takes many dangerous turns much like Jesus himself does in the Bible.  It jumps from talking about prayer to suddenly discussing sex and this intrigues the reader very much.
“Sister Honoré polishes the fall board on the grand piano and looks out a haustus room window at northern winds and storm clouds in ferment and their postulant happily wading in a purple flow of maple leaves.  Mariette stoops and puts her hand down in them and they froth up to her chin like sudden pets.  Sisters Pauline Geneviève join Mariette as Sister Honoré sits on the piano bench.  She hears their high giggles and hectic talk as she plays one measure of a Chopin étude and steps on the damper pedal” page 76
This book, while at first leaving me skeptical, ended up surprising me.  It's dangerous topic and naturalistic language was comparable to a love story and very much mirrors the risky narration like the Bible, unlike many Christian "lit" books out on the market.  My only complaint about the novel would be that the beginning left me a bit confused but it becomes easier to read with every page.  Overall, I will give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

No comments:

Post a Comment