Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Read With Us: Agatha of Little Neon

The current Read With Us selection, Agatha of Little Neonhas a catchy title, an interesting cover, and is the first published novel by author Claire Luchette. 

It may seem as if we are on a "nun kick" with this book being our second read in a row about nuns, but technically, Agatha is a sister. A Catholic sister is a woman who lives, ministers, and prays within the world. She professes perpetual simple vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. A Catholic nun is a woman who lives a contemplative life in a monastery that is usually cloistered or semi-cloistered. Her ministry and prayer life are centered within the monastery for the good of the world. She professes the perpetual solemn vows of living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. So, no nun kick!

Even though this is Luchette's first published novel, they have written extensively. (Luchette uses they/them pronouns.) One of these is an interesting essay entitled "The Nuns of Fiction: Experts in Affliction and Awe". (This is an NYT article so my apologies if it's behind a paywall.) They have considered a variety of nuns in fiction, from The Ninth Hour to Chaucer and Shakespeare. Nuns in fiction can serve as examples of goodness, but they can also be objects of lust and loathing. Luchette writes, "But in more recent fiction, the extent of nuns’ otherness makes for tension and rich characterization. Nuns keep themselves physically and culturally confined, ostensibly concerned with salvation and the celestial, but they, more than any other group in the church hierarchy, bump up against the world and all its ugly suffering. In that friction lies much narrative potential." I think the author has developed this narrative potential quite well in Agatha. 

Claire Luchette received a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts in 2020. In Luchette's personal statement they write, "Earlier this year I received a scam call that there was a warrant out for my arrest, and I believed the man on the phone. It seemed possible, even likely. When I received a call in November from the National Endowment for the Arts, I did not—and still do not—believe it. It will forever seem unreal.

When I’m writing I’m always in the middle, until I’m at the end. The middle is the best part. It’s my favorite place in the world to be. This grant allows me to hang out in the middle a while longer, with more energy and confidence and focus, so I can complete a book worthy of such an incredible gift." She has used her energy, confidence, and focus to write a book worthy of support from the NEA, and I hope you'll read Agatha of Little Neon to see what you think. 

Our Read With Us book discussion will be on Tuesday, March 15. Kym, Carole, and I will each post a discussion question (or two or three) on our blogs that day, and then at 7:00 pm Eastern time we'll be hosting a live book discussion/meet-up on Zoom. We may do a little bit of compare-and-contrast for those who have read both Matrix and Agatha, but never fear, it will not be the sole focus of the discussion. Please join the Agatha discussion whether you have read Matrix or not. We look forward to having you Read (and Discuss) With Us!


  1. Thanks for this interesting insight! Even though I know you all didn't purposefully choose nuns for the sake of choosing nuns, it seems like the phenomenon of taking the veil is a subject of fascination for many. (I certainly learned the difference between nuns and sisters from this book!)

  2. This is fascinating insight that I did not know! I have the book but have yet to start it... I think I will finish my test knit today so I can settle in to read tomorrow!

  3. Very interesting. Not being Catholic, I did not know the difference between Nuns and Sisters (I thought they were one and the same). As you know, I did read this and thoroughly enjoyed it. I do hope I can remember enough to participate in a good/meaningful way on March 15th!! (Maybe I should have taken notes...but too late now)

  4. What a great post, Bonny. I'm really looking forward to the discussion next month, and hope many readers will be able to join in with us on the Zoom. :-)

  5. Great job of firing everyone up to read this book! I didn't really understand the difference between a sister and a nun before.


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