Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Odds & Ends

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Odds & Ends

Article excerpt

After reading Mark Salzman's impressive book, Lying Awake, I wrote my February 2001 column on novels that center on convent life. One of the odd things about all the novels I then mentioned was that not one of them was written by a sister. I described the authors of these novels--the majority male--as all over hell's half acre. I thought that was the end of it.

Then I received an e-mail from Irene Mahoney, who suggested I look at her book An Accidental Grace, an out-of-print novel about convent life. The lead character, a woman who leaves the convent to care for her ailing father, now rejoins in midlife. All has changed. The search for a viable future for this disparate and--at times, desperate--group of religious women brings out both the best and worst in this novel's many intriguing characters.

Sister Mahoney is a member of the Ursuline order. Finally a religious sister who has authored a novel on convent life! No stranger to writing, she most recently wrote a history of the Ursuline Chinese Province titled Swatow and edited A Company of Women, a book of essays centering on vocation. She published her first book in 1964, Marie of the Incarnation, a biography of the French Ursuline who in 1639 established a convent in Quebec. That book led to other biographies, Royal Cousin on the life of Henri IV of France and Madame Catherine about Catherine de Medici.

Mahoney wrote An Accidental Grace in 1977, her first book of fiction published under her own name (she previously wrote a mystery novel, Seven Sons, "just for fun" published under the nom de plume, Angela Simon). When she had been working in the Scholar's Room at the New York Public Library on the Medici biography, she met other authors: Susan Brownmiller, working on Against Our Will; Bob Caro, finishing up The Power Broker; Joe Lash, doing his Roosevelt books; and Nancy Milford, researching Edna St. …

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