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Karen Armstrong begins this spellbinding story of her spiritual journey with her departure in 1969 from the Roman Catholic convent she had entered seven years before—hoping, but ultimately failing, to find God. She knew almost nothing of the changed world to which she was returning and she was tormented by panic attacks and inexplicable seizures.
Armstrong's struggle against despair was further fueled by a string of discouragements—failing spirituality, doctorate, and jobs; fruitless dealings with psychiatrists. Finally, in 1976, she was diagnosed with epilepsy, given proper treatment, and released from her “private hell.” She then began her writing career that would become her true calling, and as she focused on the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, her own inner story began to emerge. Without realizing it, she had embarked on a spiritual quest, and through it she would eventually experience moments of transcendance—the profound fulfillment that she had not found in long hours of prayer as a young nun.
Powerfully engaging, often heartbreaking, but lit with bursts of humor, The Spiral Staircase is an extraordinary history of self.
“Karen Armstrong, chronicler of the human search for God, writes here with exquisite authenticity of one person relentlessly searching for the necessary self. A deeply moving account of a serious and large-hearted life. The book rings like the stroke of a bell—that clear, true tone. And it summons every reader to do the same.” —James Carroll, author of Constantine’s Sword
“Enjoyable and deeply interesting. . . . Very rewarding.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“A story about becoming human, being recognized, finally recognizing oneself. . . . It fills the reader with hope.” –The Washington Post Book World
“Riveting. . . . It’s a pleasure to read simply because it’s honest and hopeful. . . . Armstrong is such an evocative writer.” –Newsday
“I loved this powerful and moving account, and read it nonstop.” –Elaine Pagels, author of Beyond Belief
“In . . . Armstrong’s memoir there lurks wisdom about the making and remaking of a life . . . from which all of us could learn.” –The New York Times Book Review
“A powerful memoir. . . . Buoyed by keen intelligence and unflinching self-awareness and honesty. . . . Armstrong is an engaging, energetic writer.” –The Christian Science Monitor
“Exceptionally impressive. . . . Karen Armstrong’s account of her spiralling journey provokes thought and inspires respect.” –Daily Telegraph
“The story of the making of a writer. . . . It manages to dramatize the writer’s process of intellectual development and to find in it genuine interest, and, indeed, suspense. . . . As an account of the intellectual journey of an intelligent and unique individual, the book is often gripping.” –San Francisco Chronicle
“Candid and compelling, and the sentences are flawless.” –The Dallas Morning News
“Remarkable. . . . Unflinching. . . . This candid memoir will clarify thinking about the search for the sacred.” –Booklist
“Gripping. . . . Uplifting. . . . Utterly compelling.” –The Edmonton Journal
“Armstrong writes with sensitivity and wisdom. . . . She employs a breadth of learning that reflects the scintillating, shifting light and shade of human experience.” –The Times (London)
“Absorbing. . . . Profoundly inspiring and engaging.” –Tallahassee Democrat
“An honest and affecting book.” –The Independent
“Open and accessible, Armstrong manages to put into words something that most of us cannot express.” –New Statesman
“Moving, insightful. . . . Compulsively readable.” –Library Journal
“A subtle and funny memoir.” –Sunday Telegraph