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The Land Of Spices
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
20 posts | 8 read | 2 reading | 13 to read
Mere Marie-Helene once turned her back on life, sealing up her heart in order to devote herself to God. Now the formidable Mother Superior of an Irish convent, she has, for some time, been experiencing grave doubts about her vocation. But when she meets Anna Murphy, the youngest-ever boarder, the little girl's solemn, poetic nature captivates her and she feels 'a storm break in her hollow heart'. Between them an unspoken allegiance is formed that will sustain each through the years as the Reverend Mother seeks to combat her growing spiritual aridity and as Anna develops the strength to resist the conventional demands of her background.
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JamieArc
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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None of the books I read this month were total standouts, but the tagged snuggled it‘s way into my heart so it wins for May.
#2023readingbracket

JamieArc @monalyisha I‘m *pretty* sure your #ALSpine pick - Witches - is going to at least take the first half of the year. (edited) 13mo
marleed I get it with your tagged. It has a staying presence with me too! 13mo
jlhammar Yay! It really was a wonderful read. 13mo
50 likes3 comments
review
JamieArc
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

I really loved this gentle story of a nun questioning her vocation and the young girl full of promise at her school. It was a comfort read for me, quietly lovely, with elements that spoke to me: I loved the French and I feel an affinity towards those that share my last name, Archer. It was refreshing to read a story of Catholic education that wasn‘t dark and abusive. Thanks to @jlhammar for hosting this read. Better late than never - I loved it.

JamieArc I‘ll take this opportunity to share this short video that I love to use to teach directions in French: https://youtu.be/RPc2YwCfujc 13mo
robinb Wonderful review! 😊 13mo
Deblovestoread That nun was in a hurry! 😂 Lovely review! 13mo
jlhammar Oh my gosh, that video! 😂 So glad you loved it. Gentle is a great way to describe it. I'm already so excited for our next #NunLitQuarterly read in July!
13mo
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JamieArc
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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I have an ambitious reading month so I‘m looking forward to this readathon to keep me on track.

Goals:
📚Finish Every Soul a Star
📚Finish The Land of Spices
📚Finish Vladimir
📚Make significant progress in Demon Copperhead
#magnificentmay

review
LeahBergen
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

I‘m coming in late with my #NunLitQuarterly review but it looks like I feel much the same as everyone else!

This 1941 novel of an Edwardian era, Irish convent school was initially slow-going for me but once I got past the first section I found myself delighting in the day-to-day “harem-like” world of the nuns and pupils. It‘s a “pick”!

(The nun above is a 1950s “head vase” that was gifted to me, a non-Catholic 😆).

Ruthiella This isn‘t the first head vase of yours that I‘ve seen. Do you collect them? 14mo
LeahBergen @Ruthiella I did but I haven‘t bought one in years! I probably have ten or so? I haul them out and plunk some flowers in them every so often. 😆 14mo
batsy Great review and I love that head vase! ❤️ Fab accessory for our #nunlit reads. 14mo
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Gissy I do something similar. I like to know about religion from historical, cultural and social perspective to understand better, some beliefs rituals/ceremonies and symbols like this vase.It is like a way to respect others. That vase is so pretty❤️ 14mo
Tamra Apropos! 🙏🏾 😉 14mo
jlhammar Okay, that vase is awesome! I‘m so glad you put this book on my radar. Wonderful review. It will be interesting to switch to something so different (contemporary memoir) with our July selection. Looking forward to it! I‘ll be reading The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader sometime in May for one of my #NunLit extras (all are welcome to join me). I‘ve had it waiting on my shelves for years so can‘t wait! 14mo
sarahbarnes That vase is sort of amazing 😂😂 14mo
LeahBergen @batsy I knew she‘d come in handy one day. 😆 14mo
LeahBergen @Gissy Thank you! And I, too, like to learn about other religions in the very same way. 😊 14mo
LeahBergen @Tamra 😆 14mo
LeahBergen @jlhammar Thanks! I‘ve had The Anchoress on my shelves for forever, too. I‘ll try to squeeze it in this upcoming month, too! 14mo
LeahBergen @sarahbarnes 😆 And she‘s sporting some pretty impressive eyelashes, too. 14mo
marleed Love that vase. I downsized to a small 1954 cottage type home in the city (vs sprawling suburb home of yore). I found a little head vase at a neighborhood estate sale and had to buy her. She just belonged in my house. I‘ll try to incorporate her into a post sometime! And yep, we match feelings on the book! 14mo
Gissy @LeahBergen That cover is also pretty😍 14mo
CarolynM Great photo😍 14mo
Cathythoughts That‘s a crazy head vase ! 😁 14mo
LeahBergen @marleed I can‘t wait to see her in one of your posts! 14mo
LeahBergen @CarolynM Thanks! 😘 14mo
LeahBergen @Cathythoughts Isn‘t it? 😆 14mo
UwannaPublishme What a cool head vase! 14mo
rubyslippersreads I absolutely worship your nun vase. 😂 14mo
Aimeesue Oh my, that vase! I‘ve seen other head vases, but that‘s the first nun one I‘ve ever seen. Peachy keen! 13mo
LeahBergen @UwannaPublishme @rubyslippersreads @Aimeesue It‘s quite something, isn‘t it? 😆 13mo
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review
marleed
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

The first quarter of this book was slow going, but it barely distracted because I loved the rest of the book. I loved Sr Helen‘s story, what drew her to her vows, and how she conducted herself as a woman of authority. And I loved Anna‘s growth and her realization of what Reverend Mother was to her life. And this, perhaps the prettiest line I‘ve read this month…↓

April #BookSpin #12, Cat: Litsy Stacked TBR @TheAromaofBooks
#NunLitQuarterly

marleed “And now all was done that age may do for childhood. Anna‘s schooldays were closed, and there was no appeal against the advance of life and the flight of innocence.” 14mo
jlhammar That is a great line. Beautiful review! So glad you enjoyed it. 14mo
Tamra Yes, fantastic line! 😊 14mo
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TheAromaofBooks Lovely review!! 14mo
marleed @jlhammar @Tamra @TheAromaofBooks Such a great book that I‘d have never realized without this challenge and Litsy! Double bonus as a pull for my #BookSpin! 14mo
LeahBergen That was such a great line! Lovely review. 😊 14mo
marleed @LeahBergen I keep thinking about it. I doubt I‘ll ever sign another HS graduation card without quoting it! 14mo
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Aimeesue
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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A quarter of the way through, and I‘m enjoying this one so far. O‘Brien is a terrific writer, and I‘m enjoying the way she uses precise and perfectly apt adjectives for her characters.
#nunlitquarterly

jlhammar Glad you're enjoying it so far. Pretty background! 14mo
LeahBergen Yes! It took me a bit to sink into her writing but once I “got it”, I was hooked. 14mo
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batsy
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

I have to admit I struggled with this at the start, & had I been reading on my own would have probably bailed. I'm not why I struggled; I just felt stuck & unable to get close to the book, if that makes sense. But others who read it said it gets better in the second part, & they were right. It was at turns deeply moving & reflective, a glimpse into the inner landscape of spiritual life, & somehow also quietly feminist. #nunlitquarterly @jlhammar

batsy "Thank God, I have won, thought Reverend Mother. By my mean understanding of meanness. But still, thank God." That's the line that really struck me; it made me love the character a lot more, especially in light of what she was fighting for, & also the unflinching honesty. 14mo
KathyWheeler It‘s been slow reading for me; I might not finish it this month. I will finish it though because it‘s picked up a bit. 14mo
jlhammar Glad you were able to finish. Great review! I also appreciated her deep and honest self-reflection. Really liked getting the dynamics of an early 20th century Catholic boarding school as well. I think it really helped me to read most of this in one go. It took me a bit to sink in to her writing style and then I could just enjoy. Thanks so much for reading with us! 14mo
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Tamra @batsy Agreed! It is feminist. I‘m glad you made it to the end, there are some gem insights. (edited) 14mo
batsy @KathyWheeler Yes, it picks up energy and pace quite a bit as it goes on. 14mo
batsy @jlhammar Thank you! I agree, the school elements and the politics were super interesting. The contrast between the nun life and the girl life, so to speak. And yes, it did flow better when I had more time to sit with it and sink into its atmosphere—not the book to read in bits and pieces, for sure! 14mo
batsy @Tamra There were! I felt for Anna and I'm glad she had Helen on her side. 14mo
LeahBergen I‘m still reading and will come back to comment. 😃 14mo
batsy @LeahBergen 👍🏾 14mo
LeahBergen I‘m totally with you here! It was super slow for me at the beginning but I forced myself to plug away at it and was ultimately rewarded with a moving and lovely read. I‘m glad I stuck with it! 14mo
batsy @LeahBergen So happy to hear that! It's great that we read it as a group and had an idea that it would shift in tone as it goes on. 14mo
79 likes11 comments
review
quietjenn
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

I loved the current #nunlitquarterly selection. As is often the case, the beginning was slow going, as I got a handle on the different characters. But from pretty much chapter 3 or 4 on, I read it in one big gulp. Anna and the Reverend Mother completely won my heart (and made me cry more than once).

Tamra It was very poignant in parts! 1y
JamieArc So looking forward to this one. 1y
jlhammar Yay! So glad you loved it. Wonderful review! 1y
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marleed I can‘t wait to read this. I‘m a bit stressed over my annual responsibility to cook, prep, and host my book club this week. I‘m saving this book for my weekend after, so I can give it my full attention. 1y
LeahBergen I‘m just on chapter two right now and waiting to get “stuck in”. 🙂 1y
batsy I think I've been reading it in bits (got to chapter 3) and should devote some time to getting stuck in. Lovely review! 1y
rubyslippersreads I haven‘t finished yet, but am really enjoying it. 14mo
66 likes1 stack add7 comments
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KathyWheeler
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Settling in for the night to read The Land of Spices. #nunlitquarterly

jlhammar Hope you enjoy! Looking forward to your thoughts. 1y
23 likes1 comment
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Tamra
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

I nearly bailed until I got to Book 2 when the characters came to life. O‘Brien explores the motivation behind religious vocations, which are sometimes driven by an impulse to withdraw from what is an imperfect & painful world. I think Mother Reverend does rediscover herself and her humanity, particularly when she advises her favorite pupil to never judge another human being. 💜

It took awhile before I noticed the apple! #NunLitQuarterly

jlhammar Wonderful review! I agree, the look at vocation is so interesting here. I really liked how eventually Helen comes to terms with everything, realizing she took her vows for foolish reasons and yet has found happiness and contentment in her life as a nun. And a real gift for leadership! I loved how the book ends on the brink of so much change and possibility for both Helen and Anna. WWI looms as well so was thinking about how that might impact them. 1y
Tamra @jlhammar yes leadership! Didn‘t you love the comeuppance she gave Anna‘s grandmother? Hard won wisdom. 1y
jlhammar @Tamra Yes! Such a great scene. 1y
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batsy Great review. Glad that you mention that Book 2 flipped the switch for you. I just started and I'm finding it hard going (and contemplating bailing!) Will keep on 🙂 1y
Tamra @batsy it does pick up! Though there are still some slower diversions. 1y
LeahBergen @batsy I‘ve just started as well. I‘ll plug away! 1y
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review
jlhammar
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Pickpick

Six-year-old Anna Murphy is sent to Sainte Famille boarding school and convent. Over the years she finds a fierce advocate and kindred spirit in the enigmatic Reverend Mother. Realistic, reflective, compassionate - this moving novel really spoke to my bookish, feminist and NunLit-loving heart.

#NunLitQuarterly crew, I look forward to reading your thoughts and reviews throughout the month!

batsy Great review! Looking forward to it. 1y
LeahBergen What @batsy said! I‘m hoping to dive into it soon. 1y
Aimeesue Nice review! 1y
See All 7 Comments
kspenmoll Wonderful review! I aim to catch up! 1y
AlaMich I‘m on the #nunlitquarterly list but I‘ve never participated because I‘m a very slow reader and because I‘ve been in a bad reading slump for a few months. But I‘m thinking that it might be motivating for me. When will you decide the next title? 1y
jlhammar @AlaMich No worries. We‘ve already chosen all our titles for 2023. For our next one, in July, we‘ll be reading And Then There Were Nuns by Jane Christmas and for October A Shameful Murder by Cora Harrison. Hope you‘re able to read along with us for one or both! 1y
AlaMich @jlhammar Ok, thank you! 1y
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jlhammar
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Just read Helen‘s last letter from her father 😥 A few pages before she is remembering her mother smiling over the last line of this poem, the inspiration for our title, saying to her “your father accepts it with his whole imagination - only, at the same time, he happens to have no real use for it. Isn‘t it ironic?”

See below for a link to a beautiful chorale piece based on this poem 🎶 Joyeuses Pâques, mes soeurs!

#NunLitQuarterly

Tamra I‘ve thoroughly enjoyed this section! Very human. (edited) 1y
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Tamra
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Glad I muddled through because Book 2 begins to reveal the nature of the characters in earnest.

The writing is subtly building toward an inevitable confrontation with the truth of matters.

#NunLitQuarterly

jlhammar Yes! I‘m becoming so fond of Anna Murphy and Helen, feel tenderly towards them. I wonder how much of Anna‘s experience at the school mirrors O‘Brien‘s own? 1y
42 likes1 comment
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jlhammar
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Bold move on O‘Brien‘s part including a long letter in French without translation. My college French is more than a little rusty, but hopefully I‘m getting the gist of it!

I liked the part of Boylan‘s intro where she speculated that O‘Brien “must have been an editor‘s nightmare.” 😂 I think it‘s very good so far. Lots of interiority which I always tend to appreciate.

#NunLitQuarterly

JamieArc Looking forward to getting to this part, as a total Francophile. For what it‘s worth, reverso.net (maybe .com?) is a trustworthy translation source. 1y
AlaMich You can always bust out the Google Translate. Point your camera at the text and it will translate. Et voilà! 1y
Tamra To be honest, I‘m struggling with this book - I‘m into Book 2. I don‘t know why I‘m not connecting yet. 🤷🏾‍♀️ 1y
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Librarybelle I have not started yet - my copy just arrived - but I noticed my edition has a full translation of the letters in the back. It‘s been awhile since I read in French, so I‘m pretty sure I will have to refer to it! 1y
jlhammar @Librarybelle Ah, thank you! I didn‘t even think to check the back for that. 1y
jlhammar @Tamra Oh no! Sorry to hear that. It is definitely one that requires my full attention. I really liked the Marks scene I just read, especially this bit “the odd phrase, ‘take the paper-weight,‘ trailed curiously in the memories of the Sainte Famille ‘old girls,‘ embarrassing them, making them smile, having only one inescapable meaning. And in later life views of the Taj Mahal stirred curious associations sometimes.” 😆 1y
rubyslippersreads I‘m going to try to start this in the next day or so. Luckily Kindle has a translate feature. 😁 1y
Tamra @jlhammar I think you are right about the focus. This time of year with work & kids is so busy, I am having a hard time concentrating. 🤪 1y
batsy All I know about French I learned from the subtitles of French movies 😂 I have the Kindle version too so hopefully the translation is sorted @rubyslippersreads 1y
LeahBergen I noticed this section coming up and my French is definitely not up to the challenge. I‘ll be Googling. 😆 1y
quietjenn @Librarybelle thank you for mentioning the translations at the end of the book. I didn't realize they were there. 1y
Librarybelle @quietjenn You‘re welcome!! 1y
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kspenmoll
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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#weeklyforecast
2 #buddyreads & 2 personal picks

#nunlit #audiomystery #sherlockian #sundaybuddyread #FinMacleodsetries #OuterHerbrides

Cindy- thank you for starting this tag- it so helps my at times disorganized, distracted brain to actually plan & stay on track. Of course I allow myself “mood” book choices…

Cinfhen I‘m so happy, it‘s working for you 😁 It works for me too….most of the time 😂 1y
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jlhammar
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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So happy to be reading The Land of Spices alongside you all this month! Kate O‘Brien was a fascinating woman. For those who may want to get to know her a bit, I‘ve included a few links in the comments below. The 1962 Self Portrait video is definitely worth a watch.

#NunLitQuarterly

See All 10 Comments
Tamra Just started today - thanks for the tag! 1y
quietjenn Very excited for this one! Thanks for the links - I've read the articles and will be watching the video later. 1y
batsy This is one I know very little about, so thank you for the links! Looking forward to reading this, though I might be able to start only towards the middle of the month. 1y
Librarybelle Thanks for the links! My copy is on its way, so I‘ll be starting soon! 1y
LeahBergen Thanks! I‘m hoping to start this next week. 1y
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LitsyEvents
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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repost for @jlhammar:

#NunLitQuarterly 🔔 April 2023 reminder 🔔

Dear Perpetual Reading Sisters of Litsy,

April is nigh and that means it is time to get ready for our group read of The Land of Spices by Kate O‘Brien. Read the book sometime in April, post your review and any thoughts you may have along the way and be sure to tag the group.

All are welcome to read along with us!

original post:
https://www.litsy.com/web/post/2566936

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jlhammar
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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#NunLitQuarterly 🔔 April 2023 reminder 🔔

Dear Perpetual Reading Sisters of Litsy,

April is nigh and that means it is time to get ready for our group read of The Land of Spices by Kate O‘Brien. Read the book sometime in April, post your review and any thoughts you may have along the way and be sure to tag the group.

All are welcome to read along with us!

jlhammar @LitsyEvents Please repost. Thanks! 1y
Tamra Looking forward to it! 1y
LeahBergen Awesome! Thanks for the reminder. 1y
See All 12 Comments
JamieArc I overcommitted to various reading challenges in January and didn‘t end up getting to that one, so I‘m excited for this one! 1y
Librarybelle I‘d like to join in, please! 1y
jlhammar @Librarybelle Wonderful! I‘ll be sure to include you for future posts. 1y
Aimeesue Yay! Spicy nuns! 1y
quietjenn Yay! Another one I've been meaning to read for ages. 1y
Penny_LiteraryHoarders Thank you! It‘s all ready to go on my Kobo! 1y
UwannaPublishme Thanks for the heads up! Looking forward to reading this one. 1y
Centique I don‘t think I am going to get to this one sorry but I will be keen to be tagged and watch your reviews 😍 1y
batsy Yay! Thanks for the reminder. 1y
55 likes12 comments
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LeahBergen
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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Thank you, @ShelleyBooksie , for this gorgeous and thoughtful #FallingForFallSwap package!

Another #FurrowedMiddlebrow for my collection, a Kate O‘Brien that‘s been long on my wish-list, lovely jasmine tea and that BEAUTIFUL teacup set … I love it all. 😘😘

And thank you to @Avanders for hosting another great swap! 😘😘

#FFFS

ShelleyBooksie Yay!!!! I am so glad you like it ♡♡♡ 2y
Tamra The tagged book sounds like a good one! 2y
squirrelbrain Such a lovely tea cup! ❤️ 2y
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jlhammar Wow, that teacup is gorgeous! Very interested in The Land of Spices. If a book has a nun in it (or really anything about monastic/religious life), I can't resist. I own this one and have been meaning to get to it for a while now. Maybe in 2023? 2y
Avanders Oh what a gorgeous teacup set!! 😍😍🍂🫶🏽🍁♥️ 2y
LeahBergen @ShelleyBooksie I love it all! 😘 (edited) 2y
LeahBergen @Tamra It does, doesn‘t it? 2y
LeahBergen @squirrelbrain @Avanders It‘s beautiful! 😍 2y
LeahBergen @jlhammar I‘m the same way with nuns in books. 😆 I own The Corner That Held Them, too, and still need to get to it. Have you read this one? 2y
jlhammar @LeahBergen No, but I really need to. Sounds wonderful! 2y
AlaMich @jlhammar @leahbergen I am a card-carrying member of the “books-with-nuns lovers“ group! If the nuns are medieval or thereabouts, even better! I vouch for The Corner…as well, and I can‘t wait to read Matrix now that it‘s in paperback. (edited) 2y
LeahBergen @AlaMich I was thinking of you while texting this as we‘ve had this same conversation ourselves. 😆 I picked up a cheap copy of Matrix at a book sale this past spring. 👍 2y
AlaMich @LeahBergen I thought maybe we had talked about it but everything goes down the memory hole these days. 2y
DinoMom That tea set is gorgeous! 2y
batsy Count me in the nun book group, though I haven't really read any as of yet... I just keep adding to the TBR 😂 the tagged book sounds fascinating! 2y
LeahBergen @AlaMich I hear ya. 🙄 2y
LeahBergen @DinoMom Isn‘t it? 2y
LeahBergen @batsy 🤣🤣 I know what you mean! 2y
Cathythoughts Beautiful gifts ! So thoughtful ❤️ 2y
LeahBergen @Cathythoughts I thought so, too. 😊 2y
84 likes20 comments
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Cinfhen
The Land Of Spices | Kate O'Brien
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#MOvember One of my favorite Madonna songs of all time🙏🏻💋💄She was bringing us Sunday Service wayyyyyy before Kanye 🙌🏻Tagged book sounds really interesting, a Mother Superior who begins to question her calling and the arrival of a young novice. #LikeAPrayer

batsy This is also one of my favourites ❤️ I remember first hearing it and being like 😍🤯 5y
TrishB I‘m not a massive fan but love anything that rattles the establishment a bit 😁 5y
Cinfhen I can respect that ✊🏼 @TrishB 5y
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britt_brooke I was obsessed with this song and video. 5y
MicheleinPhilly @britt_brooke Me too! And it made my uber Catholic father apoplectic so that was an added bonus. 😈 5y
Cinfhen Hehehehe 🙊 @MicheleinPhilly 5y
Cinfhen Best video @britt_brooke it was like a mini film 5y
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