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The Monk Downstairs (Plus) Paperback – May 30, 2006


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Product Details

  • Series: Plus
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; Reissue edition (May 30, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061122424
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061122422
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #523,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Tim Farrington's The Monk Downstairs follows the beguiling romance between a jaded San Francisco graphic designer and a monk who flips burgers at McDonald's. Rebecca Martin is a 38-year-old single mom who has lost her faith in men; Mike is a disillusioned monk who's lost his faith in God. The two meet just after Mike leaves his monastery of 20 years and rents the downstairs apartment of Rebecca's house. The last thing Rebecca wants is another romantic entanglement, especially since she has the emotional well-being of her 6-year-old daughter, Mary Martha, to consider. (A charming character in her own right, Mary Martha also happens to be "an infallible detector of bullshit.") And the last thing Mike wants is to agitate his already troubled soul. But after a few backyard cigarettes together at twilight and a few melted barriers, a tentative love story is underway.

Although Farrington's plot revolves around a classic story of unlikely lovers, there's no sappiness or clichés in his highly polished narrative. Indeed, his vulnerable characters and realistic dialogue will feel especially poignant for grown-up lovers. When the big night arrives and the couple must decide whether Mike will sleep over, Rebecca speaks for all single mothers.

"This is not just about us anymore," she said. "If that freaks you out, then please, please bail now. Because if you are going to stay here tonight, you're going to have to have breakfast with my daughter. You're going to have to be a decent human being. You're going to have to be a man."

In Mike we see what it means to bring spiritual strength to a relationship. When Rebecca suddenly becomes sharp and anxious, he does not retreat, nor does he paw at her for reassurance. Instead he knows how to sit with her, as if in meditation, staying present while not getting caught up in her fear. And in Rebecca we see what it means to speak honestly to a lover. This all may sound too lofty and preachy to be a juicy read, but Farrington has the quirky characters and the masterful skills to make this a highly entertaining and inspiring tale of adult love. --Gail Hudson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

An independent, "unremarkable" single mother of one and an introverted ex-monk are the unlikely couple sharing the spotlight in this delightful, Anne Tyler-ish third novel from the author of 1998's well-received Blues for Hannah. Rebecca, a 38-year-old divorced San Francisco graphic artist, already has plenty on her plate a six-year-old daughter, Mary Martha, and a pot-smoking professional surfer ex-husband, Rory when she rents her downstairs apartment to Michael Christopher, a monk who has just abandoned monastery life after 20 years. She's sure she's not on the market for romance, but when Michael weeds her backyard, manages to befriend no-nonsense Mary Martha and joins Rebecca for intimate cigarette breaks ("little suicides") on the back steps, she finds herself wavering. Much trepidation predictably gives way to heated romance, though Michael wrestles with his crisis of faith via letters back and forth to the abbey brothers, and Rebecca, between bouts of bailing Rory out of jail, questions whether a romantic relationship with a man like Michael would be a true "fall from grace" for them both. Then Rebecca's mother has a stroke, and Rebecca and Michael are forced to make some rushed but pragmatic decisions. Fluent prose, seamless dialogue and a lovingly rendered Bay Area setting lift this novel above the pack. Farrington touches on many of the themes customary to the genre: forbidden fantasies, passionate first kisses, hovering family members and the tribulations of inconceivable relationships and all are mastered with ease and grace. The writer may have adopted a secondhand premise, but he delivers a charmingly written, gratifyingly hopeful tale. Agent, Linda Chester, Linda Chester and Associates. (May)Forecast: West Coast readers in particular will appreciate the quirky, spiritually inflected sweetness of Farrington's fiction. Farrington has been quietly building up a solid body of work, … la Stephen McCauley, and The Monk Downstairs should bump his reputation and sales up a healthy notch.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

The characters were well developed and realistic.
C. Bower
The most remarkable, wonderful feature of Farrington's writing is that every character is complex and multi-dimensional.
bensmomma
This story captures the emotional risks we all take when we open to love again.
Veronica Bennett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Veronica Bennett on July 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think this shall be one of my all time favorite books. It speaks to the risk of love versus the acceptance of a safe, yet solitary existence. It speaks to the risk of one exploring and accepting another versus that of one gliding from one superficial entanglement to another, precluding real intimacy. One wants the happy ending... but is it worth all the pain that accompanies the risks?
This is a story that grips you immediately. The story is about a single mom who fixes up the in-law apartment of her house so as to increase her income. Funny thing, the person who shows up has no money and no furniture. He is a monk who has recently left the monastery. However unsure, once she sees the interaction between the monk and her six year old daughter, Mary Martha, her decision is affirmed.
As the friendship develops, Rebecca waits for the proverbial shoe to drop. She has conceded that she is to remain alone for the rest of her days, but Mike, the monk, captures her imagination providing her a healthy dose of giddiness followed by a pervasive topping of fear of what may be too good to be true. This story captures the emotional risks we all take when we open to love again. It is that fear that rests in the gut.
This is also a story that invites the reader to explore his/her own relationship with a "God" whose message isn't always crystal clear. Again, it is about acceptance and risk.
Rebecca and Mike are surrounded by a group of wonderful people. These people are not too neurotic, not too "over the top". Their assortment of idiosyncracies are reminders of the real people who surround us: wishing for our happiness, fearing for our hurts.
Perhaps my only disappointment is the fact it is cigarettes that provide the initial sensory connection for Rebecca and Mike. So it is not a perfect world after all.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on August 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This could easily have gotten maudlin: a late-30s single San Francisco mom rents her downstairs apartment to a monk who, due to spiritual distress, has just left the monastery. They fall in love. He's a good kisser. He's nice to her kid. He supports her through the illness of her mother. They stay in love. The end.
But it is so wonderfully written - so funny (you will laugh!) and warm - and the author gives such a rich inner life to the characters - that the book transcends its plot. The most remarkable, wonderful feature of Farrington's writing is that every character is complex and multi-dimensional. Mike, the ex-monk, is not just some boilerplate Nice Guy. His internal struggles with living in the "real world" seem completely believable and sympathetic. Rebecca, the mom, is funny and smart, but also quirky. Even characters who occupy no more than a page or two - the judge at a trial, or the receptionist at the graphics firm where Rebecca works, or an eccentric friend of Rebecca's mom - they are all fully developed, interesting, distinct people.
How does the author do this? I have never seen such a remarkable ability to put a flesh-and-blood character into just a few lines of text.
And funny, did I mention it was funny? Funny and spiritual at the same time...you can't beat that. I really hope everyone gets a chance to read it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By "heathentart" on December 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I was beguiled. I was charmed. Within the first chapter, I was so intrigued by the characters that I didn't put the book down until I finished it - about 6 AM the following morning!
Tim Farrington is simply the most amazing writer I've come across in a very long time. His style is simple, yet elegant. He uses words as if they were jewels, sprinkling them just right across the pages to make the story sparkle and glow.
Please don't mistake this book for a romance novel. It is a story of love, but has none of the trademark purple prose of romance novels. The protagonists are finely-drawn, three-dimensional people. Rebecca, the single mother, is Everywoman - we are her and she could be us. Mike, however, is unique as a character; how many times have you come across an ex-monk?
It's the humanity that shines through every page. This is life with a capital L, and you feel so lucky to be an observer into these people and their hopes and problems.
I can't say enough good things about The Monk Downstairs. Reading this book has convinced me to buy all of Farrington's works.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Wilma Murray on September 26, 2004
Format: Paperback
I was fully expecting this book to be a cute little romance and was delightfully surprised soon after beginning it that there are many layers to this novel. Farrington deftly weaves the story of spiritual journey into a simple, yet lovely romance so well that one disinterested in spiritual things would enjoy the tale for its love story, while someone who wants to seek a deeper meaning can find a lot to think about. The beauty of this book is that there is not a lot of the usual relational missteps thrown in simply to complicate the plot. But there is just enough legitimate angst to make it feel real.

Although unabashed in his symbolism, particularly in the naming of the characters, Farrington does a great job of posing spiritual questions in an unobtrusive way. I felt as though I could sit and peel away layer after layer and still come up with something new to consider, which makes this a wonderful book for a discussion group.
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