Five Years in Heaven

What I saw there brought on a smile: backlit by the room behind her, Sister stood just barely over five feet tall, slightly hunched, wearing glasses, and attired in a full, traditional habit of long black veil, white coif, black tunic belted at the center, brown wooden rosary beads dangling from her waist, and sensible black shoes. There was just one deviation: she also wore a blue denim bib apron smeared with paint.” – John Schlimm

A seemingly lost soul forced to return to his hometown and await a permanent teaching position, John takes an unexpected trip with a friend – not a long trip, just a trip down the street, but a trip that will forever change his life.  John visits the ceramic shop at the local convent, a shop that he never knew existed despite its location beside his alma mater, the Catholic high school where he substitute teaches.  That one trip changed his life and forged his bond with Sister Augustine, a petite and compassionate nun who crafts ceramic statues at the convent’s shop. Her calm nature, her dedication to her faith, and her joyful demeanor allow her to endear herself rather quickly to John. Soon, they forge a friendship, and the bond they share revolves around much more than ceramic statues of angels and the virgin Mary.

Over five years, Sister Augustine teaches John life lesson and ceramic sculpting. John learns lessons of humility and thoughtfulness from a woman who continued to craft works of art well into her eighties. He has conversations about death, faith, and family, all the while learning about himself and his dreams.  This book is unexpectedly touching.  I expected a story about a nun and the lessons she shared with a young man, but I did not expect to love the story for its beauty and power. Schlimm writes with incredible voice, transporting readers to the small ceramic shop, through five years of conversations and changing perspectives. Needless to say, Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions was absolutely lovely – a must read for anyone needing inspiration, joy or renewed faith.

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