All the Way Home

Description

206 pages
$27.95
ISBN 0-88750-561-9

Publisher

Year

1984

Contributor

Translated by Jane Pentland

Julie Rekai Rickerd is a Toronto broadcaster and public relations
consultant.

Review

Gabrielle Poulin has written a gentle yet disturbing book about a young girl from a small village in Quebec, Rachel Delisle, and her journey into and out of convent life.

Rachel is the eldest child of a large, happy, and loving family, the apple of her father’s eye. Her mother, Anna, faithfully attends daily Mass, looks after her brood, and keeps the house smelling sweetly of fresh-baked bread and maple syrup. Only one tragedy mars the ideal family circle — the death, at age six, of Marie-Paule, one of the beloved children.

Rachel leaves her idyllic existence to marry the Church at age twenty, much against her father’s wishes. Soon after his death, she returns to her native village, from her convent home in Montreal, to spend a year near her family at the local convent. Even at this distance, she is allowed to see them only for a brief hour per week. It is during this time that Rachel begins to doubt her life’s commitment to the Church, fueled by a brief encounter with a young priest. She begins her slow journey back into the “real world.”

Poulin’s description of convent life is devastating. The sisters and their oppressive and repressive lives are “relies of another age.” They are allowed no feelings or thoughts other than their love for and service of their “Bridegroom,” the Lord.

Successful as Poulin is in convincing the reader that Rachel has made a mistake in entering the convent, she never presents a convincing argument as to why Rachel chose to enter the convent in the first place. Her parents did not pressure her. The only possible reasons were her reaction to her sister’s premature death and her childhood admiration for the nuns who taught her at the local convent school.

Poulin’s prose, translated by Jane Pentland, flows smoothly and her descriptive powers are strong. Flashbacks are effectively used to convey the stark contrast between family and convent life. All the Way Home is not recruitment material for the Church!

Citation

Poulin, Gabrielle, “All the Way Home,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/37170.