In her beautifully written text, Paula Huston offers readers an insightful glimpse into her spiritual journey toward simplicity. Written almost as a spiritual autobiography, Huston weaves together her own personal experience (successes and failures) with the wisdom of a variety of spiritual writers, to create a meaningful work that details how we in our hectic, contemporary world can search for and attain a life of peace through simple living.
Huston details her complicated struggle for simplicity describing how she, a busy wife, mother, teacher, writer and administrator, slowly incorporated many of the monastic disciplines demonstrated to her by the monks of the Camaldolse community into all aspects of her own life. One of the great strengths of the text is the author's humility. She writes as a fellow seeker, one who has offered the reader an invitation to join her on a journey. Huston refrains from preaching and is honest about her own failures and the difficulties she encounters while attempting to live a simple life. Along with her own humble quest to live simply, Huston offers readers an historical sketch of the many communities and individuals who have functioned as exemplary models, both within and outside of the Christian tradition.
The text is broken into five main parts with the following ten subtopics: solitude, silence, awareness, purity, devotion, right livelihood, confidence, integrity, generosity and tranquility. Each chapter skillfully addresses the goal to be sought and the difficulties faced as one strives to master each spiritual discipline. The chapters also creatively describe Huston's own personal journey and offer valuable encouragement from those as varied as St. Anthony and Thomas Merton.
Huston's work achieves its goal of providing its readers with a valuable justification for living simply, as well as functioning as an inspirational guide to that end. One of the most appealing aspects of the text is its style. Since Huston is a professional writer by trade, her book keeps the reader engaged with its creativity and substance. Although the writer is not a professional theologian, the book demonstrates Huston's dedication to becoming well read in spirituality. She seems familiar with the diverse spiritual traditions within Christianity and is comfortable moving across Christian traditions (Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) as well as into other faith traditions (Hindu, Buddhist).
The text seems best suited for personal reading. As mentioned, Huston is not a professional theologian and did not write the book as a theology text. The book does not detail a history of spirituality or present deep theological discourse. Its aim is to provide a reflection upon the value of living simply and to aid in an individual's transformation to that end. Teachers might find it to be a pleasant book for a summer read, as well as a text to recommend to interested students. It is motivating, well written and challenging. Readers will likely walk away with a more express desire to live a disciplined and simple life.