icon caret-left icon caret-right instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads question-circle facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

The Scent of God: A Memoir

Shop Indie Bookstores

Published by Counterpoint , The Perseus Books Group Hardcover April 2006 / $24.00/ ISBN: 1-58243-348-8 Paperback April 2007 /$15.00 /ISBN: 1-58243-361-5




"A riveting memoir of devout faith and forbidden love." -- Star Tribune Best of 2006 Minnesota Authors


One day after her eighteenth birthday, the author enters a cloistered monastery believing that God has called her. She wants to become a saint. Fifteen years later, her abbess sends her to Puerto Rico to care for her invalid father thus setting in motion a sequence of events that will upend her life.


The Scent of God probes deeply into the beliefs that led the author to seek religious life and limns the events that eventually sent her back into the world -- a searing yet courageously honest saga of the tension between human love and religious dogma.


Padre Vittorio and Beryl did not fall easily into love. Theirs is a story fraught with contradiction and anguish, a struggle to remain faithful to their religious calling while recognizing that their love was God’s gift. Their journey is a must-read for all those who seek to make sense of their lives, who struggle with the impact that their choices have had on those they love, and who long to find the healing that lies beneath the surface of these experiences.


The Scent of God is Bissell’s first book. She lives on the north shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota with her husband Bill, their dog Shelby and fat cat Ellie.


Bissell received a MN State Arts Board Grant in 2000, and a Loft Creative Nonfiction Award in 1997, both of which provided assistance during the writing of this book.



"The apparent schism between the life of the spirit and that of the mind presented her with some extremely difficult decisions, and working through them clearly gave her a unique and beautiful perspective, one that served her well when cancer struck in her family. Bissell seems to find inner joy even during life's most difficult trials, and she writes about spiritual matters with a marvelous clarity of vision." -- The Washington Post


"A deeply moving tale of a woman torn between her love for God and her love for one of his emissaries." -- Publishers Weekly


“It is rare to read a memoir that isn't at least occasionally self-aggrandizing and narcissistic, but this one is never so. Instead, Bissell's humility and blatant honesty are refreshing, invigorating, and inspirational. Recommended for all libraries.” -Library Journal


"THE SCENT OF GOD is an ode to passion both spiritual and sensual. Meticulously researched and skillfully written, it is the story of a woman who twice gave up everything for love — first for God, then for a man.” -- The Minneapolis Star Tribune


"In the last several years a number of former nuns have written books about their days in the convent. Bissell's memoir is by far the best yet. . . . Bissell's first book is superlative. This memoir is like holding a prism to the light. All the elements of faith, vocational discernment, sexuality, family, growth and change - both personal and institutional - are lovingly and critically presented in their ambiguity and power. One can only admire an author whose faith is of such a depth that the changes she endures and creates tend always to move in love and towards the source of Love" -- Dr. Susan K. Hedahl Ridge Reviews and Reflections


“Vivid detail and skillful dialogue . . . The strength of Ms. Bissell’s memoir lies in the unflinching examination of her motives for entering and leaving religious life… A compelling and soulful read.” --National Catholic Reporter


"This is a powerful piece of writing, a profound and honest meditation on love -- for family, between men and women and between us and God." --The Tablet


“Bissell writes lyrically and frankly.” --St. Paul Pioneer Press


“The Scent of God: A Memoir is not a nun-gone-wrong story, it’s about a young woman coming of age and coming to terms with herself and her family. . . a sweet awakening to herself in colorful and sensuous Puerto Rico where she reaches out to embrace life." --Cook County News Herald


"Accounts of genuine spiritual anguish and unspeakable loss." --Kirkus


“Though Catholic school survivors will find this book especially fascinating, everyone can identify with the uncertainties Bissell faces -- the ones that make us all human, whatever our order in life.” --Bust


"Bissell writes cleanly and precisely, and she depicts her early life as a Poor Clare in a cloistered convent with authenticity and conviction. ...A beautiful book. --Cook County Star