The Priest and the Lily

Sanjida O’Connell

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The Priest and the Lily

Out now. Available here

…startlingly original…piercingly intelligent and very exciting…

You will journey far beyond the boundaries of your imagination. You will meet and seize your heart’s desire. It will be the death of your soul.

In 1865, Joseph, a young Jesuit priest and plant-hunter, sets out on a dangerous journey through Outer Mongolia, a land virtually unknown to the Western world. Charles Darwin’s radical theory of evolution has just been published, and Joseph is driven by his passion for science and his love of God. As he crosses the Mongolia Steppes with a Buddhist monk and a local horseman, he hears rumours of a rare and beautiful white lily. He believes that if he finds this flower, his fame and fortune will be assured.

But then Joseph meets Namuunaa, a shaman and the chief of her tribe.

And it is Namuunaa who will teach him the true meaning of his desire…

An epic journey, a story of East meeting West, and of a love that transcends culture, faith and ultimately tragedy.

Read the first chapter here: The Priest and the Lily – Chapter 1

An extract from The Priest and the Lilywhere Joseph sees the lilies he’s been searching for: The Priest and the Lily – Lilies

Reader reviews on Amazon & Goodreads:

Enchanting, engrossing, atmospheric

A compelling story…I read this as part of a Book Group, and not only did I enjoy the book but I also thought it one of the most interesting and well-written of those that we have read as a group

a thoroughly enjoyable, touching read that may get you to reflect on what lengths you would go to to achieve your goals

‘Her prose is stunning, lusciously descriptive and evocative of the wild beauty of the country.’

‘The most all-consuming and well-written book I have ever read.’

The story of two worlds colliding…. the love story that is central to the book will leave you aching!’

‘I was crying at the end of the book.’ 

Questions about The Priest and the Lily for Book Clubs / Readers Groups:

How and why does Joseph stay true to his faith? Is it initially because of gratitude to the church who ‘saved’ him as a boy?

To what extent is Joseph trapped by his religion? To what extent are the nomads free in comparison?

What is Joseph able to learn from Mendo?

Although Mendo and Joseph talk about God and Buddhism, does either of them alter their view point?

How is Joseph able to reconcile his beliefs about God with his views on evolution?

To what extent does Joseph reconcile his beliefs about God with his views on love?

Joseph travels to Outer Mongolia to bring back flora and fauna. In particular, he hopes to find a rare white lily. What is acceptable to take from another country?

Why does Joseph really go back to Namuunaa’s tribe?

What does the novel tell you about love?

How much is Joseph changed by his ordeal?

Could Joseph have behaved differently?

What are the themes of the book?