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.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Tulip and the Pope|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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The Tulip and the Pope
Becoming a Postulant
Blue smoke curled out of the taxicab windows.
The driver, who had just parked outside what looked like a stone mansion, waited; he had most likely been through this before. Three of us, three young women, sat in his Yellow Cab and smoked our cigarettes.
The mansion was the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And this day, July 31, 1960, was Entrance Day, the day we would give our lives to God by joining the convent. About two weeks earlier, on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, on July 14, I had celebrated my nineteenth birthday.
Other taxicabs were pulling into the motherhouse like limousines to the Oscar awards or like horses to the Bar X corral. One hundred and eighteen of us wanted to become nuns.
Many of us were edgy and sat smoking and speculating a little, like starlets or cowpunchers before it was time to crush out the cigarettes or flick them away and do the next things that needed to be done.
Edgy, yes, we were—but also blithe to become nuns, just as Thomas More had been blithe to bare his neck and have his head neatly sliced off by the likes of the black-hooded executioner in A Man for All Seasons. Thomas was so chipper because he knew he was headed for God, would see God face-to-face. Robert Bolt has Thomas say—or maybe Thomas said it himself—that God “will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him.”
In a way, we were going to Him now.
I was going to Him now. When I died, why would He refuse me if I had been a good nun? It was quite a bit like being a princess; eventually I would come into my own and inherit th