Braddock Avenue Books
"Set near the Maine coast, Rachel May's taut and probing new work of fiction, The Benedictines, conjures up the spirit of Sara Orne Jewett's atmospheric landscapes. With prose that will have you turning pages in anticipation, May follows Annie James, a passionate, young artist whose decision to take a job teaching for a Benedictine school brings her deep into her students lives and up against the limits of control...and, for Annie, the limits of passion. With generosity and insight, May traces the deep conflicts between the human heart and the rules that heart invents. Like the quiet beauty of Maine, The Benedictines is a book that will stay with you for a long, long time."
"The Benedictines is a taut, vivid, spellbinding, and gracefully written novel. I was amazed at how much power and beauty can be packed into so few pages. Rachel May is really, really good."
- Tim O Brien, author of The Things They Carried
"Rachel May's strange and beautiful vision captured me the very first time I read her writing, years ago, when I was the fiction editor of the Michigan Quarterly Review. We were thrilled to publish her work there, and eagerly awaited more. Her debut novel delivers richly: in THE BENEDICTINES, May uses vignettes to render a complex place and people so immediately alive that one can t help but turn the pages faster and faster. May's characteristically offbeat, generous humor is a joy, as is her brilliant portrayal of a community navigating vital questions of teaching, belief, and humanity."
- V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage: A Novel
"One of the great strengths of this novel is transcendence, individually and institutionally. Annie finds that beyond anger and disgust, there is empathy. The novel is populated with characters who vary in their relationships to the church and its dogma. Each of them is humanized, if not validated, by the end of the novel. At the end of the school year, Annie still wants to leave, but her anger is transformed into a peaceful acceptance of herself, as well as the colleagues she’s been in conflict with. Annie’s time at St. Christopher shows us that we may leave the institutions of our youths, but they never leave us, no matter how egregious their flaws."
- Rachel Mack, Necessary Fiction
"May is strategic in exploring both emotional and physical intimacy. The stronger and deeper Annie’s relationships are with her students, friends, and romantic partners, the more May places her as part of the actual landscape and campus grounds. Without completing neat and tidy arcs, characters are introduced and slowly come into focus, like the zoom lens of a camera. May strips her prose bare, leaving us with only the essentials..."
- Melissa Sarno, Cleaver Magazine
"The Benedictines is a fascinating look into the restrictive and hypocritical practices of devout Catholics, the flaws of contemporary religious educational practices, and one woman’s internal struggle between the morals of her past and asserting her identity as a modern, independent woman. Firmly rooted in coastal Maine, the novel confronts the notion of belonging and identity, salvation and redemption. It’s a story that will appeal to any reader who can appreciate intentionally tight and simple writing against the backdrop of complex and seemingly contradictory dogma."
- Melissa Grunow, Coal Hill Review