my tragic right hip

Busting out bad joints all over the place

February 4th, 2012

#3 – The Spiral Staircase

After rearranging all of my books in alphabetical order, I was disheartened to have to start at the “As” again — but it meant that I am finally getting to some of the nonfiction that has been collecting dust bunnies for more years than I’d care to count, and hence: The Spiral Staircase by Karen Armstrong. A friend of mine, Deborah Birkett, who used to run a terrific website called Chicklit, had mentioned Armstrong either in passing or in something she had written or in some conversation she may have moderated. I am pretty sure that’s how this book ended up on my shelves — through her recommendation.

Armstrong, a failed nun, a failed post-doc, a failed teacher and a failed television presenter (yes, I’m being harsh but bear with me), finally finds her calling when she, after a long struggle with real life, comes to writing about comparative religion. It’s funny, I finished The Night Circus, a whimsical novel about real magic only to come to a very real memoir about a woman who loses her faith so colossally that she fears she’llĀ  never find her place in the real world, the magic in her ideas about God and religion, so to speak, lost for the foreseeable future. In so many ways, Armstrong’s struggles to find her right place in the world are so powerful that it’s impossible not to cheer for her every single time life churns her out in a direction she never imagined for herself.

This is a beautifully written, wonderfully rendered memoir. It teaches you, among many, many other lessons, that there’s honesty in failure. That hard work, in any direction, will always be rewarded, even if you don’t end up in the place you imagined for yourself. That life, however fragile, can’t be defined by structures that refuse to evolve with society; and that Armstrong’s voice, pure, authentic, engaging, refuses to blame her circumstances for any of her so-called defeats. She simply picks herself back up, delves deep into her own philosophy, and moves on to the next thing. And if the result is books like this one — well, I don’t quite know what to say, except I hope she fails evermore so that I can enjoy however she phrases the journey upwards.

One Response to “#3 – The Spiral Staircase”

  • Kailana says:

    Glad to hear you enjoyed this. I have it on my TBR pile somewhere!


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Girl with titanium hip will rock. Girl with titanium hip will write. Girl with titanium hip will read. Girl with titanium hip will battle crazy-ass disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis. Now stuff that in your spelling bee!

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