by Hurley, Blair

Seeking solace in Buddhism to the chagrin of her Irish Catholic family, an enlightenment-seeking store clerk becomes dangerously entangled with her Zen Master and reinvents herself in New York City before the past catches up in disturbing ways.

*Starred Review* How do you shoehorn the life that you make into the strict confines of the religion you're brought up in? All her childhood, Nicole Hennessy typifies the consummate Boston Irish Catholic, her faith hammered in by her overzealous mother. But when devastating tragedy strikes and the rock-solid Catholic community seems shaken to its very foundation, Nicole is left anchorless. She finds succor in Buddhism, whose central tenet of endless rebirth appeals to her need for reinvention. Attachment is a no-no in Buddhism, but Nicole's Zen master has very different ideas. He exerts a stifling influence on her, exploiting her need for absolution and a way to escape her fractured past. Hurley's debut is a breathtaking performance, portraying not just the ugly corners of an abusive relationship but also how faith can color the contours of our lives. With absolutely spot-on descriptions of Boston, this spellbinding story adds much-needed nuance to the discussion of faith and what we're willing to forsake in the name of absolution. Yes, the master is creepy and manipulative, but that's almost beside the point. Even if Nicole could eventually break free, she would only be treating the symptoms and not the disease. That is the real horror. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

A young woman's life is controlled by her Zen Buddhist master in this debut novel about spirituality and sexual power. Nicole is having an affair with her Zen master. He spies her, a damaged spiritual seeker, in his Boston Zendo, "pretty in a half formed way," and he begins to groom her to abandon her sense of self while he takes advantage of her naiveté. She has a troubled past, and she goes to the Zendo in search of a connection that he is happy to abuse during their backroom private sessions. Nicole is haunted by guilt from her Catholic upbringing and a harsh secret involving her past as a teenage runaway; her master uses this to wrap her around his finger. "You are mine," he tells her. "No other teacher will want you, once you have been shaped by my instruction." Though her master makes a point of distancing himself from the patriarchal structure and rules of Catholicism, Nicole—who once wanted to be a nun and who rebelled against a strictly religious mother 212;is drawn to his firm commands. Even when she wants most fervently to escape him, her body responds to his voice "like church bells, like the smell of incense." Their sexual relationship lasts a decade. "They were teacher and student, very old, accustomed friends; [yet] each time he let his hand travel up her skirt, the shock was fresh." When Nicole realizes the relationship is too controlling and tries to take some liberty by moving away, making a new friend, and finding a new Zendo, her master creeps his way into her new life. He finds her and forces her hand: Abandon life as she knows it to be rid of him, or submit and be his. Not quite a spiritual thriller but a thoughtful exploration of faith, surrender, and ecstasy. Copyright Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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