The Tulip and the Pope
A Nun's Story
By Deborah Larsen
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375712906, 288pp.)
Publication Date: September 12, 2006
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The story of novelist and poet Deborah Larsen's young womanhood, The Tulip and the Pope is both an exquisitely crafted spiritual memoir and a beautifully nuanced view of life in the convent.In midsummer of 1960, nineteen-year-old Deborah shares a cab to a convent. She and the teenage girls with her, passionate to become nuns, heedless of all they are leaving behind, smoke their last cigarettes before entering their new lives. In the same artful prose that distinguished her novel The White, Larsen's memoir lets us into the hushed life of the convent. She captures the exquisite peace she found there, as well as the extreme constriction of the rules and her gradual awareness of all that she is missing. Eventually the physical world—the lush tulip she remembers seeing as a girl, the snow she tunneled in, and even the mystery of sex—begins to seem to her an alternative theater for a deep understanding and love of God.
Deborah Larsen grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and currently lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. She teaches writing at Gettyburg College, where she holds the Merle S. Boyer Chair. She is the author of The White, a novel based on the life of Mary Jemison, and a collection of poetry, Stitching Porcelain. Her poems and short stories have appeared in The Nation, The Yale Review, and The New Yorker, among other publications.
"[An] evocative and intelligent memoir. . . .Larsen summons up a lost world."—The Washington Post Book World
"[Larsen] recalls . . .an era when life in a nunnery, for many woman, was the only counterculture available."—The New York Times
"Movingly and honestly explores an innocent girl's faith and subsequent coming-of-age."—Bookpage