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Against the wishes of her parents, Karen Armstrong entered a Catholic convent at age 17, spending the next seven years searching for God and incorporating all-day silence and floor-kissing into her definition of “normal.” After leaving the order in 1969, she faced not only an unruly and decidedly unholy body of peers at late-’60s Oxford, but also the misdiagnosed epilepsy from which she’d suffered throughout her entire adulthood. The sequel to Armstrong’s 1981 Through the Narrow Gate, an account of her years inside the convent, The Spiral Staircase details Armstrong’s life post-nunnery, when she discovers that freedom doesn’t mean escape from the Big Questions. A series of setbacks—emotional, physical, intellectual—makes for a winding path to the spiritual fulfillment that she couldn’t find as a woman of the cloth. Yes, the content is as heavy as it sounds, but it’s leavened with enough moments of dry, self-effacing humor to avoid being preachy. Armstrong reads at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Anne Marson)