Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Date of publication: February 7th, 2023
Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, Literary Fiction, Contemporary
Trigger Warnings: child abuse, grief, sexual assault, rape, animal killing and abuse
After surviving a tragedy that killed her entire family, sixteen-year-old Meg joins a cloistered convent, believing it is her life’s work to pray full time for the suffering of others. Taking the name Sister Angeline, she spends her days and nights in silence, moving from one prayerful hour to the next. She prays for the hardships of others, the sick and poor, the loved ones she lost, and her own atonement.
When the Archdiocese of Chicago runs out of money to keep the convent open, she is torn from her carefully constructed life and sent to a progressive convent on a rocky island in the Pacific Northwest. There, at the Light of the Sea, five radical feminist nuns have their own vision of faithful service. They do not follow canonical law, they do not live a cloistered life, and they believe in using their voices for change.
As Sister Angeline struggles to adapt to her new home, she must navigate her grief, fears, and confusions, while being drawn into the lives of a child in crisis, an angry teen, an EMT suffering survivor’s guilt, and the parish priest who is losing his congregation to the Sisters’ all-inclusive Sunday masses. Through all of this, something seems to have awakened in her, a healing power she has not experienced in years that could be her saving grace, or her downfall.
In Angeline, novelist Anna Quinn explores the complexity of our past selves and the discovery of our present truth; the enduring imprints left by our losses, forgiveness and acceptance, and why we believe what we believe. Affecting and beautifully told, Angeline is both poignant and startling and will touch the hearts of anyone who has ever asked themselves: When your foundations crumble and you’ve lost yourself, how do you find the strength to go on? Do you follow your heart or the rules?
Meg lies prostrate on the stone floor. Her body, a cross. Incense curls around her white gown and spirals up like tiny resurrections.Angeline by Anna Quinn
Meg was only sixteen years old when she joined a cloistered convent. She believes she is responsible for the car accident that killed her entire family and unborn child. Her way of repenting is to join the convent and take a vow of silence, praying for other people’s suffering. Meg (or Sister Angeline) is transferred to an unconventional convent in the Pacific Northwest when her convent is closed due to a lack of funds. The nuns at that convent are quirky. They believe in the power to use their voices, aren’t cloistered, and do not follow the Catholic Church’s laws. Angeline touches lives with several people during her first months there: an abused child who is being failed by the system, an angry teenager, the teenager’s EMT father who has survivor’s guilt, and a priest who is losing his congregation to the nuns Sunday masses. Angeline also discovers a power for healing that she thought was lost. Will Angeline stay at the convent? Will she be able to heal and help everyone whose life she has touched? Will she be able to forgive herself?
Meg (or Sister Angeline) was the main character in Angeline. I wasn’t sure of her at the beginning of the book, but that was because I didn’t know her entire story. But as I read the book and got a good look at who she was, I was heartbroken for everything she had endured. I also felt that her being transferred to the convent in the Pacific Northwest was suitable for her. Being around those eccentric nuns helped her accept what happened to her. They also made her see that the world wasn’t to be shut away but to be enjoyed.
Speaking of the nuns, I loved them. They were sassy and weren’t afraid to tell people like it was. Of course, they each had their backstory, and how the author introduced those backstories was terrific. One nun had a son who was murdered by gun violence. Another was under political asylum. Another was a raging feminist who was vocal about LGBTQ/abortion rights. And two were mysteries, and I didn’t expect their backstories. It was those backstories that framed Angeline’s story.
As I detailed in the plot summary, Angeline suffered an immense loss. Her loss is an essential part of the main storyline. As was Angeline’s horror of being transferred to a convent with rebel nuns. But, like her Mother Superior, I thought it best for her. And it was. Angeline was able to connect with so many people on the island. She even tried to help a few of them. I loved how the author wove a paranormal element into the book about halfway through and made it an essential part of the storyline. It was almost believable because of the way the author wrote it.
There are some scarier elements to Angeline. They crop up around the middle of the book and aren’t resolved until the end. Be warned, some of these elements can get a little intense (mainly with the priest).
The end of Angeline felt rushed and tacked on. While the author wrapped up all the storylines, I was left with a bad feeling. Mainly because I didn’t like how the ending was.
I recommend Angeline to anyone over 21. There is violence, some mild language, and nongraphic sexual situations.
Many thanks to Blackstone Publishing, NetGalley, and Anna Quinn for allowing me to read and review Angeline. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
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