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Rebecca Martin is a single mother with an apartment to rent and a sense that she has used up her illusions. I had the romantic thing with my first husband, thank you very much, she tells a hapless suitor. I'm thirty-eight years old, and I've got a daughter learning to read and a job I don't quite like. I don't need the violin music. But when the new tenant in her in-law apartment turns out to be Michael Christopher, on the lam after twenty years in a monastery and smack dab in the middle of a dark night of the soul, Rebecca begins to suspect that she is not as thoroughly disillusioned as she had thought.
Her daughter, Mary Martha, is delighted with the new arrival, as is Rebecca's mother, Phoebe, a rollicking widow making a new life for herself among the spiritual eccentrics of the coastal town of Bolinas. Even Rebecca's best friend, Bonnie, once a confirmed cynic in matters of the heart, urges Rebecca on. But none of them, Rebecca feels, understands how complicated and dangerous love actually is.
As her unlikely friendship with the ex-monk grows toward something deeper, and Michael wrestles with his despair while adjusting to a second career flipping hamburgers at McDonald's, Rebecca struggles with her own temptation to hope. But it is not until she is brought up short by the realities of life and death that she begins to glimpse the real mystery of love, and the unfathomable depths of faith.
Beautifully written and playfully engaging, this novel. is about one man wrestling with his yearning for a life of contemplation and the need for a life of action in the world. But it's Rebecca's spirit, as well as her relationships with Mary Martha, Phoebe, her irresponsible surfer ex-husband Rory -- and, of course, the monk downstairs -- that makes this story shine.
Tim Farrington is the author of Lizzie's War, The Monk Downstairs,—a New York Times Notable Book—and The Monk Upstairs, as well as the critically acclaimed novels The California Book of the Dead and Blues for Hannah.
I don’t use the word “enthralling” often, but no better adjective applies to Farrington’s warm, intelligent, wry, absolutely wonderful novel.
“…a romantic, sometimes calamitous, always good-hearted novel… a thoroughly smart and satisfying read.”
---Diane Leslie, author of Fleur de Leigh’s Life of Crime
“Open it up and prepare to be delighted.”
-Lorna Landvik, author of Patty Jane’s House of Curl and Welcome to the Great Mysterious
“Fluent prose, seamless dialogue and a lovingly rendered Bay Area setting lift this novel above the pack.”
“This gentle, luminous love story shimmers with warmth, honesty, and self-deprecating humor.”
“[A] funny, touching love story...laced with elements of spiritualism but never veering far from reality.”
“Vulnerable characters and realistic dialogue...a highly entertaining and inspiring tale of adult love.”
-Gail Hudson, Amazon.com
“The Monk Downstairs is a quiet bit of wisdom...utterly captivating, even enthralling.”
-Books & Culture
“Farrington writes startlingly well; there are sentences to marvel at on every page.”
-Book Street USA
“The Monk Downstairs is a nice summer read....keep you turning the pages until the end.”
-San Francisco Chronicle Book Review