“I decided to read this one because it is about the group of monks who used to live in the monastery that has become the library I now work at. It starts back in the Middle Ages, introducing the Trappist monks as calling and what makes them different from the other orders of monks. It seems that they lived during quite troubled times. Primarily starting as a French order, though spreading to holdings in Belgium, England, and Eastern Europe, the order found itself constantly moving around largely due to falling in and out of favor of the leadership of various countries. This became a particular problem for those in France during and after the French Revolution, when religious orders became protected and disfavored at various points as Napoleon, the Bourbons, and various other governments came to and lost power.
The book's primary focus is on the settlement of houses in North America. While originally planning to settle on the American East Coast, the first house to take hold was in Nova Scotia. The brother's there struggled slightly with the harsher weather, but continued to grow very slowly over time, allowing them to build a second house. It is this second house that would one day move to Cumberland and settle at the Lady of the Valley (the current Cumberland Public Librar; Office of Children, Youth, & Learning; the Parks Department; and the Senior Center).
I do have to admit that the book was a little slow reading up until the point when the monks arrive in Cumberland. It was not that it was not interesting, but the author, who is in fact a Trappist out of Spenser (where they moved to after leaving Cumberland), seems to thrive on writing lots of rich detail. With that said, that is what I found most interesting about the book because I could get a real sense of the men who used to live in the building in which I work today. It brought the stories that I did know about them to even greater life, and it gave me a look at what the spaces used to look like. It even provided me with some more stories about the monastery and corrected some inaccurate facts, I had heard. For eample, in the mid-1940's, there was a monk named Stephen King!
It is a pretty hefty tome, but one I found worth reading. That is probably not the case for everyone, though. It might be worth it if you enjoy their Trappist jams or might someday enjoy the ale they have decided to start producing!”