THE SAINT AND THE FASTING GIRL
Anna Richenda, iUniverse, 2009, $19.95, hb, 332pp, 9781440132414
The Saint and the Fasting Girl takes place during the reign of Henry VIII when the religious order of the time turned tempestuous as he broke ties with Rome and formed the Church of England. The tale begins at the Saint Isela nunnery, in the northern part of England. The nuns who live there believe in the miracle of Saint Isela, as do the many pilgrims who flock to the site for healing. Sister Georgia, the prioress, is the Bearer who keeps Isela’s sacred relic, a stone amulet. Her mission is to protect the relic and the Chooser for the future return of Isela.
As Henry’s court dictates authority, the evil archbishiop Philip SeVerde imposes his mandates and demand the nuns’ submission to him. Georgia is boldly defiant and with feisty gaul, stands up to his demands. After a short-lived reprieve when the nunnery appears safe, the archbishop returns and decimates the priory. He is triumphant in his battle, yet Sister Georgia and her fellow nuns escape to the country to hide. They are constantly on the move fearing capture.
The journey to freedom and recovery of the relic of Saint Isela is a tortuous and brutal path for Georgia and her women. She must endure horrific pain, beatings, and demoralization from both physical and sexual abuse. They fight for survival throughout the story with an unexpected turn of events that shapes a twist to the ending.
Richenda’s writing excellence is shown in her realism and specificity for detail. Her depiction of torture and punishment common during the period provides no cover up. With precision and clarity, she inspires odorous fumes that waft off the pages to arouse stomach churning. There are many characters who provide support to the story, but Georgia clearly will remain a favorite as the resolute and courageous heroine.
Anna Richenda’s novel is a beautiful, well-researched mystifying tale of endurance, hope, and love.