The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son


Vows is a compelling story of one family's unshakable faith that to be called is to serve, however high the cost may be. Peter Manseau's riveting evocation of his parents' parallel childhoods, their similar callings, their experiences in the seminary and convent, and how they met while tending to the homeless of Roxbury, Massachusetts, during the riot-prone 1960s is a page-turning meditation on the effect that love can have on profound faith.
  • Free Press | 
  • 416 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743249089 | 
  • October 2006
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Reading Group Guide

READING GROUP GUIDE   VOWS The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son
Peter Manseau

Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son
Peter Manseau

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Is Vows a story of vows made, or vows broken? How would you describe this book—as a love story, a religious journey, or both? Discuss the symbolism of the title, and the dual meaning that is implied.

2. Author Peter Manseau follows his mother and father through their childhoods, details their years of religious training, and recreates their inner worlds. How, as a writer, does Peter accomplish this? How does he give voice to each individual character? Discuss the unique use of language and narrative structure in Vows.

3. If the Manseaus’ story had been told by someone other than their son, how might it have been different? Would you have felt differently about these characters had you read about them in a newspaper, or heard about them on the news? And if so, do you think you would have been more or less interested? Sympathetic? Opinionated?

4. Peter believed that his family had been shaped “first and foremost by the fact of [his] father’s vocation”—until he uncovers the evidence of his mother’s scandalous secret in th see more

More Books from this Author

Songs for the Butcher's Daughter
Killing the Buddha

About the Author

Peter Manseau
Photo Credit:

Peter Manseau

Peter Manseau is the author of Vows and coauthor of Killing the Buddha. His writing has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, and on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. A founding editor of the award-winning webzine KillingTheBuddha.com, he is now the editor of Search, The Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Washington, D.C., where he studies religion and teaches writing at Georgetown University.