cover image For Love of the Broken Body

For Love of the Broken Body

Julia Walsh. Monkfish, $22.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-958972-27-4

Walsh debuts with an introspective chronicle of her rocky path through physical trauma and self-doubt to nunhood. After she began her novitiate at age 25, Walsh fell 20 feet from a cliff near her Iowa family home into a creek bed, lacerating her face and breaking her nose, jaw, and many of her teeth. She recounts the accident in the book’s dramatic opening, then rewinds to detail her young adult years, during which she weighed whether to become a nun; her initial forays into the religious life, including a stint as a Jesuit volunteer; and her anxieties over romantic and physical longings, including a friendship with a Franciscan postulant. As she simultaneously wrestled with an arduous recovery process and her internal conflicts over a life of obedience and celibacy, Walsh was moved to commit to the order and use her “brokenness” to serve “the broken body of Christ, the Church—as complicated and messy” as “[it] can be.” With evocative prose, she captures the days and months after her accident and how her bodily trauma served both to defamiliarize and clarify. “Every tooth has moved while my jaw has healed, while the brackets and wire held everything in place.... I don’t know my mouth anymore,” she writes at one point. And yet, “I still smile a lot,” as “the goodness of God’s creativity continues to impress me.” This leaves a mark. (Apr.)