Book Review, The Abbey by James Martin, SJ

The AbbeyThe Abbey is James Martin’s first work of fiction, and it’s my first time reading his books. One reviewer suggested an actual story was missing. I chuckled. I enjoyed the book even without much story.

Martin switches points of view between three protagonists, a divorced single mom struggling with the death of her young son, a former architect whose career is in shambles, and the Abbot of Saint Philip and James, otherwise known as PB & J. The book reads more as three intertwined short stories of faith and healing. The characters interact to weave a story that the reader pieces together without the characters much realizing the whole.

Set in an abbey, the PB & J Abbey that rightly makes jam, reading the descriptions and following the author through the halls, placed me firmly in the location, a location reserved for prayer study, work and devotion. The monks make jam. I like jam. The monks work hard and pray harder. This delights me even as I write.

The villain of the book is scarcely actualized. He/she/it comes from within each character. For the single mom, it’s her own grief that turned to bitterness, for the young architect it’s his appetites, and for the Abbot it’s occasional regrets and nostalgia for the outside world.

While The Abbey might be more accurately described as a novella I enjoyed it mostly for the love Martin clearly demonstrated for his fictional flock. He doesn’t force them into a sudden acceptance of Christ. Instead he nudges, suggests prays and they do what people do, they muddle around, get lost, rage, stumble, pray and wonder.

Read this book for the setting. Read this book for an experience of being part of a cherished flock.

Thank you for reading. BEV

Also posted at and Goodreads and reblogged to

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