An introspective novel focusing on retreat, the climate crisis, memories and relationships.
The plot in minimal – the protagonist is an atheist but comes to a Catholic retreat house for rest and contemplation after her career and marriage have both fallen apart. She leaves but comes back months later and blends in with the monastic life – its routines and observances, its peace and daily chores.
The book explores the social hardships and undercurrents of rural life. The grief for the natural world is vividly and horrifically captured by Wood’s graphic descriptions of the mouse plague resulting from hotter, drier weather which hits the monastery and town. Although the pace of the novel is slow and measured affecting the rhythm of the nun’s lives, there are various significant events which are pivotal to the story and quite momentous.