In this episode of Life Stories, the podcast series where I interview memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir, I had a reunion of sorts with Beverly Donofrio to discuss her third memoir, Astonished. When we met a little over a decade ago, I interviewed her about another memoir, Looking for Mary, which discussed the start of her devotion to the Virgin Mary. This time around, Beverly decided she wanted to enter into a monastic retreat—she had already begun the search for a suitable spiritual community when she became the victim of a serial rapist in the small Mexican city where she lived. So, as we discuss, that rape was not the impetus for her retreat, but it profoundly informed the experience.
We talk about how her time in various monasteries brought about a new understanding of her relationship with Jesus, which has taken on vivid dimensions, and about how she decided to approach the act of spiritual withdrawal:
“When I was going off to the monasteries, I made a promise to myself that I would not be taking notes. I would not be taking notes thinking I’m going to write about this. I knew, since I’m a memoirist, I most likely would, but I did not want to compromise the experience. I wanted it really to truly be just about me being close to God, whatever that meant… It’s kind of like the difference between going on a vacation without a camera and going on a vacation with a camera. I can’t help but write, so I would take notes now and then, but I didn’t really start writing about this… for two and a half, almost three years.”
If you enjoyed the previous Life Stories with former nun Mary Johnson, I think you’ll find my conversation with Beverly equally fascinating. (And if you haven’t heard that other episode yet, I encourage you to check it out!)
Listen to Life Stories #30: Beverly Donofrio (MP3 file); or download the file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click).