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The Scent of God: A Memoir

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A true story of spiritual and human desire is revealed through the forbidden love between Beryl Bissell, a New Jersey nun who entered the convent at age eighteen with the belief that God had called her to his way of life, and a handsome Italian priest, Padre Vittorio, who would become her secret love.


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A true story of spiritual and human desire is revealed through the forbidden love between Beryl Bissell, a New Jersey nun who entered the convent at age eighteen with the belief that God had called her to his way of life, and a handsome Italian priest, Padre Vittorio, who would become her secret love.

30 review for The Scent of God: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Addicted to Books

    5 – I teared up and cried numerous times – stars. I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. This book crept up on me and enveloped me. I don’t even know where to start. Before I even start saying anything, I would like to say this is not a book about religion or God or anything preachy. It is not a racy book about a nun and priest getting it on. It is very far from that. It is a beautifully crafted book about a courageous woman who lays bare all her flaws and insecurities to close scrutiny. Wow 5 – I teared up and cried numerous times – stars. I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. This book crept up on me and enveloped me. I don’t even know where to start. Before I even start saying anything, I would like to say this is not a book about religion or God or anything preachy. It is not a racy book about a nun and priest getting it on. It is very far from that. It is a beautifully crafted book about a courageous woman who lays bare all her flaws and insecurities to close scrutiny. Wow I was expecting something else when I started reading this memoir. I expected this book not to be my cup of tea at all and I expected not to like it as much as I did. As a voracious reader, I always want to read something that would be completely different from my life and see the world differently through someone else’s eyes. I am so happy I gave this book a chance. I fell in love with the memoir and with Beryl. It stirred up so many emotions within me and made me cry and laugh too. I just stayed up the night and finished it. Now I have to go to work soon as I am typing up this review. The writing alone is worth reading the book. The writing was so lyrical and beautiful and transporting me right next to her as she narrated her life events. I felt I was a voyeur watching her throughout the book and soaking all her emotions into me, along with her. I connected emotionally with the book and I feel Beryl is a good friend. I loved this gem of a book so much and I borrowed this book from kindle unlimited and now I am going to purchase a copy. This book deserves a second reading. The book is broken down into 3 parts Dawn Midday Dusk The author describes her childhood and how she grew up In New York and moved to Puerto Rico. She was studious and did well in school. Sometimes she did have problems socializing and preferred to be at home instead. But she decided to make most of what she had and become heavily involved with sports, homecoming etc. She did have her share of boys. In those days, they were chaperoned. But certain prophetic dreams and being educated in the later years of her high school in a covenant back in New York made her want to be a nun. The author clearly states she did not know much about God or religion when she became a nun. She also shows her selfishness and how she hurt her parents by becoming a nun. She battled with being anorexic and she tried her best to please the head nun. She admits never focusing on her vocation and at times she swerved from it. She coped with it with discipline and her determination to be a nun. She wanted to serve the world and serve others. Her father has a stroke and she is called back home to help take care of him in Puerto Rico. This is when she starts doubting vocation and goes through life changes. I really enjoyed the book and Highly recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Catherine

    The author spent fifteen years as a nun with the Poor Claires. When she was summoned back to her parents' home in Puerto Rico to help care for her ailing father she met Padre Vittorio. The author eloquently discussed her conflict of leaving her cloistered life and beginning the next chapter of her life at around 30 in the outside world, where she had the freedom to make her own decisions. She carefully took her reader through her long and developing relationship with Vittorio. Through many seren The author spent fifteen years as a nun with the Poor Claires. When she was summoned back to her parents' home in Puerto Rico to help care for her ailing father she met Padre Vittorio. The author eloquently discussed her conflict of leaving her cloistered life and beginning the next chapter of her life at around 30 in the outside world, where she had the freedom to make her own decisions. She carefully took her reader through her long and developing relationship with Vittorio. Through many serendipitous events, good and bad, the two do finally join lives together. This was a beautifully written memoir of love and loss that kept me engaged from beginning to end.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Bethany

    Interesting journey of a woman who chooses service to the Catholic church, then falls in love with a priest. Must loving God and loving man be mutually exclusive?

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nattolie

    THE SCENT OF GOD is an inner retreat. I return to it again and again to breathe in the power of love!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Garnett Haris

    This is a true story of Beryl who enters the convent at 18 years. After 10 years she leaves to marry a priest. Well an ex priest! I found Beryl's religious fervour at such a young age fascinating. She describes her feelings in great detail and it is so outside the norm that I had to put the book down and reflect on it. Her life in the convent was an eye opener. Praying through the night, silence. All the things I've thought "why would someone live like that?" Beryl appears to love and delight in. This is a true story of Beryl who enters the convent at 18 years. After 10 years she leaves to marry a priest. Well an ex priest! I found Beryl's religious fervour at such a young age fascinating. She describes her feelings in great detail and it is so outside the norm that I had to put the book down and reflect on it. Her life in the convent was an eye opener. Praying through the night, silence. All the things I've thought "why would someone live like that?" Beryl appears to love and delight in. Nevertheless she ends up having to leave the convent to care for a family member. She meets a priest and they end up falling in love. Her description of their love is truly beautiful and poignant. I won't say anymore as I don't want to give anything away. This book was full of emotion and richness and deep spiritual insights. It was a satisfying, heartwarming read

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lacey Louwagie

    Although this book took a while to get going for me, by the halfway point I was completely hooked. This memoir does what the best of them do: it tells a story as compelling as anything you'll find in fiction, yet it rings true because the author is painfully honest in her own struggles and failings, so that you can believe in her triumphs. This book can be read on two levels, both of which resonated with me. On one level, you have a "forbidden love" story, the story of two people who fell in lov Although this book took a while to get going for me, by the halfway point I was completely hooked. This memoir does what the best of them do: it tells a story as compelling as anything you'll find in fiction, yet it rings true because the author is painfully honest in her own struggles and failings, so that you can believe in her triumphs. This book can be read on two levels, both of which resonated with me. On one level, you have a "forbidden love" story, the story of two people who fell in love with one another despite their lives and their decisions (and acceptance) that they would forgo romantic love. On this level, the book does not disappoint: it's one of the most moving love stories I've ever read, complete with all the ups and downs and insecurities of first (and in this case, great), love, but it manages to do something few fictional accounts of love do: it makes you really want to see the couple together in spite of the hardship they endure. Because the hardship was real and not contrived by an author to heighten romantic tension, it's that much more compelling. On the second level, this book is an exploration of Beryl's relationship with Catholicism and with her faith as a whole. While it's a little harder for me to talk about this thread objectively, this was the thing about this book that really lodged beneath my ribs. The ebbs and flows of Beryl's faith will be familiar to most readers who desire or seek relationship with a higher power; but what was really inspiring was Beryl's ability to find God despite having to endure some of the hardest realities anyone should have to face, including the death of a child. This is a story of great love, great pain, and an even greater God.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marsmannix

    Beryl Singleton Bissell tells the story of her life as a religous: specifically a cloistered order called the Poor Clares. She does a masterful job of pacing and the arc of the story, with it's twists and turns, kept me turning pages. I read this in 2 days. She structures her book in sections according to the daily prayers of the Catholic life, using their Latin terms, and provides a poetic description of each prayer and how it relates to the inner life. I especially appreciate that she treats her Beryl Singleton Bissell tells the story of her life as a religous: specifically a cloistered order called the Poor Clares. She does a masterful job of pacing and the arc of the story, with it's twists and turns, kept me turning pages. I read this in 2 days. She structures her book in sections according to the daily prayers of the Catholic life, using their Latin terms, and provides a poetic description of each prayer and how it relates to the inner life. I especially appreciate that she treats her own faith with respect throughout, without the tone of anger or bitterness often seen in memoirs by ex-Catholics. (Disclaimer: I am an ex-Catholic and an atheist). Highly recommend to all, religious or not.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Homeschoolmama

    I was surprised I liked this book so much. I was expecting it to be a typical anti-Catholic rant, and I was not looking forward to reading a tirade written by an ex-nun. But it was not like that at all. I found this memoir to be a very honest and reverent story, of a young girl who sought after God and wanted to live a religious life in a cloistered monastery. She lived her dream for a time but eventually left her group and married. The only part I found disappointing was that Ms Singleton Bisse I was surprised I liked this book so much. I was expecting it to be a typical anti-Catholic rant, and I was not looking forward to reading a tirade written by an ex-nun. But it was not like that at all. I found this memoir to be a very honest and reverent story, of a young girl who sought after God and wanted to live a religious life in a cloistered monastery. She lived her dream for a time but eventually left her group and married. The only part I found disappointing was that Ms Singleton Bissell did not dedicate this book to her late husband, and she didn't include any pictures! But you can find some on her website. I would definitely read her other books. Her writing is very compelling.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Holly

    A beautifully written book. I got a glimpst of something completely foreign to me. I have never understood why a person would choose to become a nun/priest and live in a monstery. I never even thought of nuns as "real" people. This book helped me understand one womans journey into spiritual life and her conflict of when years later she falls in love and wants to leave the church. A compelling and interesting story spaning 40 years and taking place in the United States, Purto Rico, and Italy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny W.

    As a good little Catholic girl who grew up and explored the possibility of leaving the Church to become a Protestant, I did not have the experience of being immersed in my faith so deeply as to stand on the threshold of young womanhood and forfeit my future to center a cloistered nunnery. Kuddos to the author for providing insight into her decision to do so, as well as her decision to leave a decade later to marry a priest.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I'm still not sure what makes this book one of my favorite memoirs. It just is. There is something unique, wholesome and refreshing about it. Probably because you don't see love, religion and self-discovery used as concurrent angles too often. A nun falls in love with a priest and they both have to make a decision. The lyricism that outlines their dilemma, the forthrightness with which the narrator tells the story...all very appealing.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    This extraordinary book tells the story of a young woman who enters a Cloistered Convent as a late teen, develops anorexia, and 15 years later on leave to care for her sick fathers, falls in love with an Italian priest. Bissell took me on a spiritual, dizzying and often raw journey where she bears her soul to all.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Theodora

    this book is so gorgeous. a real testament to the connection of God and eros -- copulation with God and copulation with another. I was pulled in both by the forbidden love aspect/and withholding and Beryl's own relationship to God. I appreciate Beryl's honesty -- she admits her faults and flaws.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    This is a poignant story of love. A love for God and sensual love. The words flow across the pages and I felt as if I were in the monestary, could feel the sting of the hot wool habit on my skin and visualize the beauty of Puerto Rico. Beautifully written Beryl and I look forward to your next book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steph Fisher

    This book was one of those gems that I stumbled upon just looking through the shelves at the library. I liked the cover and ended up loving this memoir. The author was a cloistered nun for many years and it is her story of falling in love, finding joy and sorrow and a true, beautiful faith.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    The book is a true life story about a young girl who dedicates her life to God, choosing to live in a cloistered convent only to find out that God had different plans for her. A beautiful story - it made me cry on the airplane.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    I loved this book. I didn't have time to sit down and read it in one sitting which I think made the book even more captivating and allowed me the time to really enjoy this woman's life and where her path led her.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Dale

    A truly moving book (I was sobbing at the end..) that I read in 2 days...while working, driving, eating, etc! What an incredible journey this book takes you on.....and the good news is the author is writing a sequel!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This is my all-time favorite memoir. Beryl tells her life story without begging for sympathy. I will read it again and again.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessie

    oh, this book is pure poetry. i have read it so many times, it is a joy to me to read of beryl's life and her choices and struggles, and her great, great love.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    I am not a religious person, and even though this is about a cloistered nun, I greatly appreciated the story. This is an honest, moving memoir, and I highly recommend it! Quick easy, gripping read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Lazar

    The Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell is a work of fine art, reminiscent of a painting by Rubens or a haunting Saint-Sa

  23. 5 out of 5

    Constance

    This author has a truly remarkable story. She writes from the heart.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    This book was beautifully written and told an amazing story. I loved it!!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Faye

    It took me a bit to get immersed in this book but by the time I was, I couldn’t put it down. Beautifully written and a really bittersweet story. I wish there would have been more elaboration on the inner workings of her mind as she was grappling with her decision to become involved with a priest. Overall though I would recommend this book and really enjoyed it - and the marker of a great book? I cried at the end. 🧡

  26. 4 out of 5

    Terry

    Powerful memoir I was so moved by this memoir - her passion, honesty and humanity. I could relate to so many of her struggles and feelings. I hated it to come to the end. I’d love to meet Beryl!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pat Kelly

    Being a Catholic girl who in my younger days also wanted to become a nun (as most young girls in the Catholic school) I really enjoyed her story. She gave the reader an inside look into the cloistered live. Also what compels one to leave the priesthood or sisterhood. Very good read

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    A memoir that would have been better as an 'inspired by true events' novel, elegant aspirations but often slow, and with a protagonist very difficult to like or empathize with.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann K Jorgenson

    Scent of God It was amazing It made me cry It was such a moving piece I was deeply moved by her journey

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Schurman

    Pretty wild story. Pacing uneven. But I love stories about religious life, and this is an unusual one.

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