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This is a science-fiction book, written by Walter M. Miller. It is one of the (admittedly many) post-apocalyptic books, but it is a lot longer, so you have more time to get to know the characters, and it's divided into three parts, so you get progression of the society over a long time (about fourteen centuries) without having a stupefyingly dull book.

The first part is set six centuries after an atomic war. The world has about as much science as the Middle Ages, with a corresponding religion that is fairly similar to Christianity. It follows the life of a young monk, from the time he is twelve years old to the time he dies. The second part is set another six centuries after the first part. It follows the life of an abbot of the same monastery, from ten years after he becomes abbot, to his death.

The third part is set two centuries after the second part, with a suprising burst of technology, going from the printing press to interstellar spaceships, which makes me think I'm remembering the time interval wrong. It follows the same monastery, but focuses on one particular monk who is offered the chance to be the priest for a colony on Alpha Centauri. It starts about a month or so before he gets the offer, to the time the ship blasts off.

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