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Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, a Spiritual Home, and a Living Faith Paperback – September 9, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Valente (Twenty Poems to Nourish Your Soul) is a rara avis—a poet and journalist. Her spiritual memoir is happily rooted in the heartland: Atchison, Kans., the city that Mount St. Scholastica, a community of Benedictine nuns, has called home since 1863. Valente goes to Mount St. Scholastica to lead a workshop on poetry, and then returns, again and again. The hospitable Midwest community of women religious is also, for Valente, a crossroads for her own spiritual life, a place for self-confrontation and growing awareness. The rhythms of life and liturgy and the quietly remarkable residents of Mount St. Scholastica create spiritual openings for the author. Women religious live, pray, and die in their community, affording Valente opportunities to face her own fears, resentments, and hopes. Her journalistic witness of the community of women is also a witness of moving faith. This honest and deeply reflective book, which implicitly critiques the myths of success by which so many live and are haunted, deserves a wide audience. Agent: Michele Rubin, Writers House. (Sept.)

From Booklist

An award-winning PBS religion journalist discovers the errors of her hard-driving ways while taking up a quest to discover inner peace with the Benedictine Sisters at their retreat, Mount St. Scholastica monastery, in Atchison, Kansas. Valente admits to struggling with intense anger that at times has alienated her from family members. During her quest to cultivate tolerance and foster tools for connecting with others, she joyfully encounters an assortment of endearing characters: one nun who fearlessly drives off to a hair appointment despite tornado warnings, others who shave the wax droplets from candles to keep their sanctuary in perfect sacred order, several who make communion wine, and a nun well into her nineties who refuses to contemplate death and thinks only of living. This sometimes painfully honest and well-written account details the numerous insights to be gained by taking time to learn essential lessons of unconditional love and acceptance. --Susan DeGrane
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Sorin Books (September 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933495588
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933495583
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #81,353 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Judith Valente is an award-winning journalist, poet and essayist. She grew up in Bayonne, NJ, but Illinois has been her adopted home for many years. She is an on air correspondent for "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly" on national PBS-TV, Chicago Public Radio, NPR, and WGLT in Normal IL. She is a sought-after speaker on such subjects as living a more contemplative life, discovering inner wisdom through poetry, and finding meaning in your work. She is married to Illinois Judge Charles Reynard, also a poet. The couple operates an alfalfa farm in central Illinois, where Judith is a member of the Grand Prairie Master Naturalists, a group that cares for and maintains the Illinois prairie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 7, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is material I delighted in reading in this book as I enjoy reading about the journey people take as they move closer to God. Ms Valente is a skillful communicator; I liked her style. However, like one of the other reviewers, I was discomfited by some of the public honesty---comments about the author's stepdaughters,etc. As a Bendictine myself who lives in transparency with those whom I am vowed in our monastery, I cannot imagine exposing the weaknesses of others in the midst of sharing my own fallen nature. I commend Ms Valente for her openness about herself, but caution her frankness about others........it is a practice to be learned and cultivated as we all are capable of saying more than we should...as maybe I just have!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robin M. Matell on September 4, 2013
Format: Paperback
"You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's," said the headline on a famous advertising poster of the 1960's. It showed a Native American Indian biting into a Levy's rye bread sandwich.

I recalled that ad campaign and its memorable slogan while browsing "Atchinson Blue," Judith Valente's beautifully-written book about her quest for peace and calm within her already strong personal religious framework. She chose a Kansas monastery to help begin the journey.

Why should I read this, I wondered? I'm not a religious person and know nothing about a group of Benedictine nuns living monastically on the Kansas plains.

But that Native American's contented smile on New York City's subway posters was a reminder to always try something new. And it fed my hunger for new information.

Valente writes from the heart, pulling back the curtain on a warm, loving soul. Benedictines believe that as a culture, Americans "suffer from leisure deficit disorder," she explains. Instead, they "plea for balance."

She recalls a wise nun at the monastery urging her "to listen carefully, to love deeply, and to be willing to change as needed ... a constant conversation with life."

She begins to understand the meaning of a more contemplative life, "speaking with greater attentiveness, exhibiting greater esteem for silence ... (where) everything begins to connect."

"Atchison Blue" does not preach. It simply tells the story of one person's very touching search for contentment in a world consumed by swirling turmoil and anxiety."

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Reinhard VINE VOICE on September 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book was a complete surprise to me. A whap-to-the-side-of-the-head walloping shocker. Why? I'm not completely sure, but the surprise was delightful and refreshing. It's good writing, for one thing, and it's also honest in a way that I appreciated. So much of Valente's story and struggles resonated with me.

It's by award-winning PBS correspondent Judith Valente and is, at heart, a story well-told. It's a story of struggle, of questioning, of seeking. It's a tale of lost and found, with a Benedictine monastery at the center.

I find myself with a growing curiosity of monasteries. I'm tempted to ask what you do in a monastery, but I suppose that's like my family member asking what I do all day.

I haven't figured out how Valente spent so much time with the sisters at the Mount St. Scholastica monastery, but I'm glad she did, and I'm glad her journalistic training prepared her to capture it to share with me.

This book spoke to my heart and applied to my experience. Valente faces a challenge, and the challenge is life. She carries a burden, and the burden is hurt. She seeks a solution, and the solution is Jesus.

Atchison Blue is part memoir, part guidebook, part something I don't know how to name. It explores difficult questions of faith and hard experiences of life. It's raw and gritty and fun to read, somehow. There's laughter, but there are tears, too.

Highly recommended. It's a book that I'll reread and reference, because it's full of gems.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By NightReader on October 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book engaging, so I sailed through it quickly. Valente tells stories that pull you in and hold you present in scene after scene. She presents ancient texts and wisdom, and makes them applicable and accessible to us today. She also introduces us to the many unique monastic people she meets.

A point of discomfort for me, however, was that Valente showed us only the gifts and goodness in the monastery. In a few sentences, she brushed quickly past any shadow, weakness or conflict there. Meanwhile, by contrast, she broadcast the transgressions from her blended family across the IMAX screen.

I have no doubt that, in this kind of presentation, she was true to her lived and immediate experience. The conclusion I draw is one to which Valente alludes when she speaks of trying to carry the spirit of the monastery with her back into day-to-day life: the place you visit for retreat and study will almost always appear idyllic compared with the gritty place you live. In reality, light and darkness dwell abundantly in both places.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dena on September 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was an amazing experience! The honesty and tenderness of this book is so refreshing! It gives the reader a chance to experience the life of a monastic community in all its dailyness and the profound effect this ancient way of life has had on the author. I felt like a close trusted friend as she wrote about her yearning for "conversatio", or conversion of life, and the changes that would require in her own attitudes toward her family and workplace. I felt like I was reading a very private, poetic journal and it was indeed a privilege.
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