I’ve read both of Beverly Donofrio’s previous memoirs: Riding in Cars with Boys, her story about her teenage pregnancy and early marriage, and Looking for Mary, which took her life story in a very different direction when in midlife Donofrio converted, if not exactly back to her family’s Roman Catholicism, certainly to an encompassing fascination with and love for the Virgin Mary as the female face of God. Astonished continues the story with two apparently very different experiences: Donofrio is raped in her home in Mexico at the same time as she is exploring the possibility of entering a monastery.
The book follows its author through the aftermath of these two experiences — coping with the aftermath of rape, and trying to decide whether life in a monastic community is the right path for her. Though the two events were initially separate, they become inevitably intertwined: how will hours of meditation and withdrawal from the outside world affect Donofrio’s ability to process this traumatic assault? Like everything Donofrio writes, Astonished feels raw, honest, insightful and often even funny, though the events she’s talking about are far from amusing. Her voice comes through strongly in her story and I was, as always, completely drawn in to her journey.