Mystic Tea by Rea Nolan Martin is an unexpected story of six eccentric nuns and two novices, who live on a needy monastery that is not much more than a run-down farm. Quote: “Two seamstresses, a TV junky, a hermit who creates magical teas and consecrates her own Eucharist, a sickly invalid, a psychotic runaway, a teenage ninja, * and a lame prioress.”
We experience the estrogen-soaked chaos in the limited POVs of Gemma, the psychotic runaway, Arielle, the teenage ninja, Mike, the lame prioress, and Augusta, the mystic tea brewer. I almost forgot. One chapter belongs to Maya, Gemma’s hidden split-personality that gets to run Gemma’s body for a day and dies. Captivating tragedy.
The Order of St. Grace is a Catholic monastery, hence, don’t expect too much enlightenment, rather worldly problems, church politics, brawls with (inner) demons, and angelic interventions.
The enlightenment threat of Mystic Tea revolves around Augusta, the hermit saint, who secludes herself in a trailer. She reminds me of the Old Testament patriarchs and the fact that they weren’t cliché saints either. Abraham disowned his wife, Ham committed incest, Elisha summoned two bears to maul some kids that mocked his bald head, David slew Uriah because he wanted to bed his wife Bathsheba, and Solomon was a fornicator of a thousand women. None of them were saintly, but God still accomplished great things with them. There is hope for all of us. Hope – the greatest Catholic virtue.
Despite the chaotic appearances to the contrary, there is divine guidance throughout, although largely unrecognized. Augusta’s testimony: “Most people don’t know the first thing about the luminous signals provided by divine providence to point them in the direction of their intended lives. Most people step into the luminous crosswalk in the middle of rush hour against the light. Most people get hit head-on, stunned by their own ignorance, and blame it on God.”
As the nun’s worldly and psychological complications progressively escalate, Augusta brews mystical teas that catalyze a climactic event she calls Convergence. Quote: “The teas work, is all she knows, though their true power may not be realized at first. With patience they cannot and will not disappoint. The teas focus, manifest and accelerate a sacred process. No recipe has ever been given to her that wasn’t essential to someone’s evolution.”
I enjoyed Rea Nolan’s subtle sense of humor, in particular, at the end. While the Convergence’s external appearance has the hallmarks of an ultimate disaster, it turns out saving the odd Order of St. Grace in a surprising but inevitable way. Happy holy ending.
*A former addict and reincarnation of St. Grace, the miracle-working founder of the order.