This time of year, from August through September, is one of transitions. For many of us, school begins in less than a month. People are moving, starting new lives. Summer will fade and the autumn rains come.
Transition feels like a major theme in my life at the moment. The day job is changing, radically in some ways. I’m beginning preparations for what I hope will be a transition to a new career as a freelancer. I have just finished my novel’s second major draft. It is a departure from what I have written in the past, and I’m excited about it, but nervous as well.
In many ways, it is an unsettling time.
In the midst of all this, I stumbled upon THE BREAD OF ANGELS, Stephanie Saldana’s wonderful account of the year she spent in Syria.
When 27-year-old Stephanie arrives in Damasus courtesy of a Fullbright scholarship, she is at a crossroads in her life. A rolling stone who has led a nomadic existence since graduating from college, she feels the time has come for her to settle and choose what she will do with the rest of her life.
A spiritual autobiography that will appeal to fans of Kathleen Norris and Thomas Merton, BREAD OF ANGELS takes its structure from the Spiritual Exercises of Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola. I was halfway through the book before I realized this fact. Jesuits have been much on my mind lately; the protagonist of the novel-in-progress is a Jesuit priest facing something of a midlife crisis. I had no idea there were any Jesuit connections when I picked up BREAD OF ANGELS. It came across my desk along with the library’s other new acquisitions in the cataloging queue. Such seeming serendipity feels like a sign, a blessing, a signal that I’m on the right track. I started reading Saldana’s book because I’m fascinated by distant places, and the opening immediately drew me in.
I’m still in the midst of Stephanie’s travails, not knowing how it will turn out. This memoir holds as much narrative suspense as any mystery novel, and something tells me I won’t be disappointed when I reach the end. It’s good to know that others have come through times of transition.
Like all good books, BREAD OF ANGELS reminds me that I’m not alone.