The Monk Downstairs by Tim Farrington


A pleasant and fast read.  A man leaves the monastery after 20 years and arrives in San Francisco with badly out of date clothes, little idea of the world for all those years, and a gym bag of belongings.  He takes the downstairs room in a little house owned by a struggling divorced woman with a daughter and you can guess what happens.  There are nice moments of humor and drama, but one very jarring bit.  They both smoke and it is mentioned so much and with such pleasure that the term "product placement" leaps to mind.  The religious issues and issues surrounding the monastic life come up mainly in letters the former monk writes to a friend still in the monastery.  For much of his 20 years as a monk, he battled with the abbot over the question of the active versus the contemplative life.  He believed in contemplation as a way of life while the abbot wanted him to be more active, the Martha versus Mary question.  In the end his contemplation withered to nothing, and he could only find his way by joining the secular world.  Recently the next book, The Monk Upstairs, has come out.

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