Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Book Review: The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan
Author: Helen Bryan
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Kindle for iPad
This book would be rated: PG-13 for adult situations
In the 1980s, an American couple arrives in South America to adopt a baby girl from a convent. In addition to their daughter, the nuns give the couple a book and a medal from the convent, explaining that they have a feeling that they need to be with the girl. Twenty years later, the girl, Menina, is in college. Trying to get away from a bad relationship with a boy, she heads off to Spain to work on her college thesis in art history, gets lost, and ends up at a convent in the Spanish countryside, where she finds not only Velazquez paintings (that's who she's come to Spain to study!) but also the same swallows on the book and medal she got when she was adopted.
From there, the story jumps back more than 500 years, to the story of the nuns who originally inhabited the convent. These nuns have taken in the illegitimate daughters of the gentry for centuries, and now, as the Spanish Inquisition gets underway, they're under suspicion of harboring Jews and Muslims. Believing they will be killed, they send a group off to start a secret new convent in the Canary Islands, and they're never heard from again. This ancient story is rich and detailed and interesting. The modern story is less so, and I'm unsure if the wild coincidences are a weakness in the plot or if they're there to highlight the multitude of ways in which Menina's story and the story of these nuns in Spain is inextricably linked.