Reviews of Lying Awake by Mark Salzman

Lying Awake

by Mark Salzman

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman X
Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2000, 192 pages

    Paperback:
    Oct 2001, 192 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

With extraordinary dexterity, the author brings to life the mysterious world of the cloister, and of one woman's trial at the perilous intersection of faith and reason.

In a Carmelite monastery outside present-day Los Angeles, life goes on in a manner virtually unchanged for centuries. Sister John of the Cross has spent years there in the service of God. And there, she alone experiences visions of such dazzling power and insight that she is looked upon as a spiritual master.

But Sister John's visions are accompanied by powerful headaches, and when a doctor reveals that they may be dangerous, she faces a devastating choice. For if her spiritual gifts are symptoms of illness rather than grace, will a "cure" mean the end of her visions and a soul once again dry and searching?

This is the dilemma at the heart of Mark Salzman's spare, astonishing new novel. With extraordinary dexterity, the author of the best-selling Iron & Silk and The Soloist brings to life the mysterious world of the cloister, giving us a brilliantly realized portrait of women today drawn to the rigors of an ancient religious life, and of one woman's trial at the perilous intersection of faith and reason.

Lying Awake is a novel of remarkable empathy and imagination, and Mark Salzman's most provocative work to date.

July 25
Saint James, Apostle

Sister John of the Cross pushed her blanket aside, dropped to her knees on the floor of her cell, and offered the day to God.

Every moment a beginning, every moment an end.

The silence of the monastery coaxed her out of herself, calling her to search for something unfelt, unknown, and unimagined. Her spirit responded to this call with an algorithm of longing. Every moment of being contained an indivisible -- and invisible -- denominator.

She lit a vigil candle and faced the plain wooden cross on the wall. It had no corpus because, in spirit, she belonged there, taking Christ's place and helping relieve his burden.

Suffering borne by two is nearly joy.

Fighting the stiffness in her limbs, she lifted her brown scapular, symbol of the yoke of Christ, and began the clothing prayer:

Clothe me, O Lord, with the armor of salvation.

She let the robe's two panels drop from her shoulders to the hemline, back and front, then stepped into the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. How deliberate and appropriate is the choice of locale of the monastery of Sisters of the Carmel of Saint Joseph in the very heart of Los Angeles rather than in a more pastoral setting?

  2. The nuns follow a way of life established for centuries. In what ways, if any, are they allowed to express their individuality?

  3. Salzman writes "The real penance in cloistered life, most Sisters agreed, was not isolation; it was the impossibility of getting away from people one would not normally have chosen as friends" [p. 21]. What incidents in the book support this statement? How does Salzman "humanize" Sister John and the other nuns--for instance, Sister Bernadette, Sister Anne, and Mother Emmanuel--without undermining his portrait of lives ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
In an era of trendy spirituality, Salzman has rendered the real thing. His book should be short-listed for all the literary prizes, but it has the kind of grace that doesn't demand them.

New York Magazine - Daniel Mendelsohn
Readers interested in lyricism, the bone-beautiful kind that arises from all thing intensely considered, would do well to pick up Mark Salzman's Lying Awake...the concreteness and economy of Salzman's writing, his eye and ear for tiny, resonant details eventually yield their riches in a clear-eyed vision—not, perhaps, of what God means, but certainly of what it means to be a human being...

Library Journal
In this spare, affecting novel, Salzman (Lost in Place, The Soloist) creates a compelling portrait of faith and the interior life.

Publishers Weekly
Mysticism meets modern medicine in this intriguing account of a nun's dark night of the soul.

Kirkus Reviews
A deliberate and somewhat plodding account of life inside a Carmelite convent, told with a surfeit of awe by Salzman.

Reader Reviews

Mary Jordan

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Lying Awake, try these:

  • Song of the Crow jacket

    Song of the Crow

    by Layne Maheu

    Published 2007

    About this book

    The story of Noah's Ark and the flood, as narrated by a Crow who is deeply suspicious - and skeptical - about Mankind.

  • Maybe A Miracle jacket

    Maybe A Miracle

    by Brian Strause

    Published 2006

    About this book

    By turns humorous and heartbreaking, personal and sweeping, familiar and extraordinary, Brian Strause's first novel takes readers on an unforgettable emotional journey into America's heartland.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Most Precious Substance on Earth
    The Most Precious Substance on Earth
    by Shashi Bhat
    Think of all the worst parts of puberty — all the moments you partially miss or brood about ...
  • Book Jacket
    Lightning Strike
    by William Kent Krueger
    It is the summer of 1963 in Tamarack County, Minnesota. Just outside the small town of Aurora, ...
  • Book Jacket: Bitch
    Bitch
    by Lucy Cooke
    In middle school biology class, many of us were told that men hunt and women nest, that testosterone...
  • Book Jacket: Jackie & Me
    Jackie & Me
    by Louis Bayard
    Louis Bayard's Jackie & Me offers a fictionalized version of the early relationship between John F. ...

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Widowland
    by C. J. Carey

    A thrilling feminist dystopian novel set in an alternate 1950s Britain under the control of the Third Reich.

  • Book Jacket

    Some of It Was Real
    by Nan Fischer

    A psychic on the verge of stardom and a cynical journalist are brought together by secrets that threaten to tear them apart.

Who Said...

Choose an author as you would a friend

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

I Wishes W H B W R

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.