After accidentally killing a man Beth tries to find peace and forgiveness by attending a Buddhist retreat. Beth needs to forgive herself after a man dies. She couldn't save him and blames herself for the drowning accident. She attends a Buddhist retreat for better understanding. When the retreat ends she signs up as a volunteer and stays for three years. A former band member with a bit of a wild streak she hopes the life of a Buddhist will cleanse her.
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She knows the rules and follows some of them. A leader in the kitchen where her main chores are she guides new recruits through the paces with firmness. In this space the sexes are separated from the time they sign in until they leave ten days later. The only time there is shared space is while meals are prepared. Even then, there shouldn't be talking. People are not there to make friends.
While Beth is on chores she runs out of disinfectant and instead of finding what she needs to complete her job and moving on, she heads into the men's dormitory where she discovers a suitcase full of journals with current entries. Writing, sex and electronic equipment are not allowed.
She wonders who is daring enough to break the rules and continues to risk getting caught by sneaking in and reading. She steals a letter from the suitcase pocket and learns about the man's troubled marriage. Beth now knows that he and his wife are disappointed in their grown daughter, and that he has had an affair with a married woman and may have impregnated her.
She can't keep out of his room. Every chance she gets she sneaks and returns to his personal words, his story.
He returns to his room and catches her. She puts her finger to her mouth urging him to keep quiet, he does. He even sticks out his hand in greeting a truce, without ever questioning the invasion of privacy.
On the tenth day, at the end of the retreat silence is broken. People are free again to talk to each other and across gender lines. He finds Beth, his name is Geoff. She hadn't been able to figure out what the initials G.H, stood for while reading his diary. She lies and introduces herself as “Lisa”. He has one question, he wants to know why she is at the retreat. After reading his diary, she is offended at the personal nature of the his question. After seducing a kitchen worker and forcing a kiss, she takes the attitude of offense at being invaded.
She answers as if she is being horribly put upon. She is there, has been there for nine months due to a swimming accident where someone may have died after hanging out with her. She lived and doesn't know if the young man survived the coma. The guilt was killing her. This is why she stayed volunteering retreat after retreat. She wants forgiveness and is searching outside of herself. The Buddhist way has taught her she has to forgive herself.
At Geoff's urging she uses her cell phone that has been locked in her small locker since her arrival. She calls her mother who has been worried sick about her well-being. She learns, her dad left after thirty years of marriage. She promises her mother she will be there that evening.
Geoff catches up with her and offers a ride into London. They share a kiss and Beth (Lisa) declines the offer to sleep with him and the one to keep in touch.
Beth returns to school to earn a graduate degree in psychology. Her new boyfriend is okay but she plans on leaving him before he can dump her. She even considers going back to the retreat space if things get out of hand in the future.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that Beth was so sneaky.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when she gets caught in G.H.'s room.
Opinion about the main character:
I disliked that Beth got away with so much, she was fearless.