Review of CHANGING HABITS by Debbie Macomber (see her website)
MIRA Books, May 2003
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, three young women decide to become nuns. Angelina has a sudden calling while on a school retreat. Kathleen had always planned on being a nun. And Joanna had planned to marry but felt her calling when her fiance came home from Viet Nam with an Asian bride. As noviates and as nuns, the three learn a great deal about themselves and their faith. Yet, even behind their cloister walls, the events of the 1960s and 1970s cannot leave them unaltered. Each suffers a crisis in their faith--for one, the realization that the Church's views on birth control can be destructive; for another, desire for a man; for a third, the sisterhood's unwillingness to stand up and defend her when she needs it most. Somehow, the three women must learn to reenter the common world and make their place in a nation that has been transformed while they had turned inward.
Author Debbie Macomber (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Macomber) has a knack for developing fascinating characters and seeing them through traumatic life changes. CHANGING HABITS, with its emphasis on the three women and their shared journey to faith and beyond, lets Macomber run with this strength. Each of the three women is interesting and becomes more interesting as they leave their youth behind them and struggles to find their place in faith and back in the profane world. Macomber's deft touch lets her bring in the events of the 1960s and 1970s (the assassinations of Kennedy, King, and Kennedy, Watergate, and especially Viet Nam) and the transformations of the Catholic Church (Vatican II, the debate over birth control, and the Church's self-inflicted wounds as it tried to hide renegade Priests from their punishments) in a way that will resonate with those who remember them, yet without detracting from the fundamental issues of the novel itself (this is alway a challenge in dealing with issues that remain controversial today).
CHANGING HABITS is sometimes episodic. Rather than a continuous story line, Macomber gives highlights of the lives these women experience, focussing on the key transitions and decisions that each must make. The language is occasionally simplistic and CHANGING HABITS sometimes reads like it was intended for young adults. The interesting characters and the decisions they face, though, will appeal to all ages. Macomber delivers an enjoyable Woman's Fiction story.
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