The Smoking Nun
Ann J Temkin
4 Dimensions (2018)
Reviewed by Adrienne Johnston for Reader Views (12/18)
“The Smoking Nun” by Ann J. Temkin opens with the reader being introduced to Ann as she is about to begin her life as a nun. Ann is open about why she is drawn to this calling and she paints a picture of herself as a young woman pursuing something bigger than herself, while also trying to find her purpose in the world. She brings the reader on a journey through big moments in U.S. history like Hurricane Betty, the JFK assassination, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. Eventually, Ann introduces the reader to a man who will become her lover, Carter, and the story focuses in on their relationship.
“The Smoking Nun” is intended as a memoir, but it reads more like a novel. That is not a criticism, but an expected experience after reading Ann’s introduction in the book. In the introduction, Ann is clear about the fact that she is writing this story, and recreating conversations, to the best of her memory. She is upfront that the overall story is more important than the individual details presented to the reader. Each chapter is started with short stories involving two characters: Flying Bird and Deep River. The character introduction is somewhat confusing until the reader realizes Flying Bird and Deep River are two emotional parts of Ann herself. This knowledge helps give a better understanding of the author.
Ann brings the reader into intensely personal moments in her life. Moments that showcase her struggle with religion, faith, her relationship with God, her relationship with herself, her desire for equality, and the emotions involved with trying to find a place in a male-dominated world. The author lived through some life-changing experiences that should be inspiring for anyone who reads the book. All that being said, I think there was a missed opportunity with this book. Once the reader is introduced to Ann’s relationship with Carter, that becomes the entire focus of the story and all other incidents become a vague backdrop to their romance. While her relationship with Carter is important to Ann’s eventual growth, I wanted to read more about the social justice work Ann was involved in, because that to me was the more interesting aspects of Ann’s life. There was a chance to inspire young women in a greater way, and I think, by focusing on Carter, a motivational opportunity was missed. That said, the story and experiences are amazing, and anyone can learn from “The Smoking Nun” by Ann J. Temkin.