The Seeker and the Monk: Everyday Conversations with Thomas Merton

Sophfronia Scott. Broadleaf, $17.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-50646-496-1

In this pleasing introduction to the thinking of Trappist monk Thomas Merton (1915–1968), novelist Scott (All I Need to Get By) reflects on how Merton’s concerns and advice remain relevant today. The author begins with Merton’s opinions on a variety of subjects, including materialism (“Stanch in me the rank wound of covetousness and the hungers that exhaust my nature with their bleeding”) and overworking. She builds on Merton’s notion that “we concentrate so much that we get ourselves mixed up and make so many dumb plans that God can’t do anything with us” to suggest that “when we don’t make peace with or understand ambition, the monster, full of pride and resentment, rears up and makes life messy.” Merton grappled with his own ambitions of being a secular writer, giving up many opportunities to enter the cloister, which Scott connects to her own focus on achievement rather than gaining experience. Later chapters cover feeding one’s spirituality (“Joy is sublime sustenance”), finding community, and the importance of solitude for divine connection. Part biography and part spiritual meditation, this enjoyably amorphous work will appeal to Christians and general spiritualists alike. [em]Agent: Brettne Bloom, the Book Group. (Apr.) [/em]