Friday, April 26, 2013

G67 E-Reading Book Review of The Chosen Shell by Katherine Sartori

Name of Book: The Chosen Shell

Author:  Katherine Sartori

ISBN: 9780988374607

Publisher: Dream Traveler Press

Type of book: Nuns, monastery, Catholicism, friendship, be true to self, religion, 1963-1968, family, sisterhood, hidden self

Year it was published: 2012


"The Chosen Shell opens at a time of profound change in the nation and the Catholic Church. Its young heroine, Celie O’Rourke, is caught between a desire to live a life of divine purpose and a yearning for human love and connection. Author Katherine Sartori, once a nun herself, follows Celie’s journey from vulnerable adolescent to empowered adult with sensitive and poignant prose, while offering readers a fascinating glimpse inside monastic convent life. Although Celie’s transformation is rooted in the turbulent 1960s, her story offers a stirring and ultimately uplifting message that transcends that era. DeAnna Cameron, author of Dancing at the Chance and The Belly Dancer. Celie O’Rourke, sensing a calling from God, enters a California convent during the 1960s, a turbulent era of change in the Catholic Church. Four years later, she is teaching Latino children with great success. But the cult-like practices of her monastic Order threaten her fragile self-confidence, as she grapples with sexual feelings she can no longer suppress. Celie’s charismatic Superior offers her guidance and friendship plus the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. . .but these gifts come with a high price. Confused, she takes refuge at a retreat house where she meets an accomplished New York businessman, Tony DeStephano. Though from different worlds, the bond they feel is electric. . .but forbidden. A former nun, author Katherine Sartori has created a fictional story, inspired by her own experiences as well as those of the Sisters she met. Her novel seeks to contrast idealism with the realities of convent living.


Only Celia and her family seem to exhibit three dimensional characteristics or changes, or Celia rather. While one does get to know her parents and sisters, but its only after she became a nun and found out interesting things about herself. Most of the characters are sort of two dimensional, such as Sister Gerald who's charismatic and mystic but at the same denies herself certain things, or Lupe who is best described as a troublemaker but a loyal friend. Strangely enough, despite the trials and tribulations they have been through, there isn't a lot of depth to their characters.


Blessings come from every path, from secular to religious paths.


This is written in third person narrative completely from Celia's point of view. Not much is told about Celie, about why she decided to become a nun, at least in beginning, but towards the end things about her are revealed; her reasons as to why, and how she has felt being part of a very large Irish Catholic family and so forth. I would have liked there to be more focus on the journal entries and stories of Celia's. I felt that the ones that are given are not very revealing and tend to be confusing for me.

Author Information:

in Los Angeles, The United States June 14



Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Spirituality

member since
June 2011

About this author
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TWENTY ONE 5-Star Reviews on Amazon!

Celie O'Rourke wants to live a life of divine purpose, yet desperately yearns for human love and connection in a convent during the 1960s. Tony, a street-smart New Yorker, and her charasmatic Superior vie for for this young woman's attentions in a debut novel by Katherine Sartori, who was once a nun herself.

Katherine Sartori has created a fictional story in her debut novel, inspired by her own experiences as well as those of the Sisters she met. Katherine(Kas)re-created her life when she left the convent, teaching children and college students as well as writing for several corporations. Now she enjoys being a mom and a grandma, and loves traveling the world with her husband Joe.

She is working on a second novel, LILY and EVE, about two, very opposite, lifelong friends who travel to Ireland together. But their trip is fraught with changes...changes that threaten their friendship.

Katherine (Kas) calls herself a DreamTraveler on her blog,, where she writes about the adventure of continually reinventing ourselves.


I found the story to be beautifully written and somehow lyrical. The scenes are very descriptive and a feeling of anxiety and sadness permeates the digital pages I read. I also found it addictive as well somehow. I tried to read Doctor Zhivago earlier, but dropped it mainly due to my anger at the fact that the author converted and the translation I read was best described as awkward. When the author emailed me, she mentioned that one of her favorite books happened to be Doctor Zhivago and thought I had read it. (I had it in my future reading column...) Few times in the story, Celia does reference Doctor Zhivago the movie, and for some odd reason I couldn't help but think of Celia as Lara (from the bits and pieces I read,) and a certain nun character as the lawyer, while another character as a helper. While this is a bit of a love story, it focuses more on choices and decisions and relationships between women and sisters and parents rather than between significant others. Although the story does end, more questions beg to be answered, and I do hope the author is considering writing a sequel to the story.

Quick notes: I would like to thank the author for the opportunity to read and review the book.

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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