Canadian poet Cook debuts with a teasing, lyrical inquest into a modern case of stigmata. Nothing's ever happened in the life of schoolgirl Donna Desjardins to explain why she should suddenly, in the week before Easter, begin bleeding from the palm of her left hand. As the week goes on, the spontaneous bleeding, for which doctors can find no source in any wound, migrates to one foot, then the other, then her side, then the crown of her head, before stopping just as abruptly and mysteriously. An empathetic imitation of the wounds of the suffering Christ? A product of hysterical neurosis? An elaborate fraud? Hard-bitten journalist Daniel Halpern, sent from the Winnipeg Herald to Donna's small town of Annex to investigate after the first frenzy of reporters has ebbed, learns that this isn't the first case of stigmata in Annex history. Over 60 years ago, Alisha Hukic developed similar wounds a year before she died of multiple sclerosis—a condition that would have made it impossible for her to inflict such wounds on herself. And as Daniel, himself suffering from a debilitating liver tumor, gathers testimony from the locals, from circumspect Father Massimo Ricci to Donna's protective mother Kennedy, Alisha's niece Regina develops similar symptoms. Cook builds the story of Donna, "the book we are all trying to read," through a kaleidoscopic dossier of evidence that ranges from the "Gentle Reader" letters of Regina's companion Molly Rhutabaga to a life of the 14th-century saint Bella-Marie Lambe to the claim of an Indiana housewife to have seen Jesus' face in a spray of detergent on a windowpane. It all leads to a murder, described with insolent casualness, that raises more questions than it answers. An enigmatic palimpsest of a novel reminiscent of D.M. Thomas's The White Hotel. But where Thomas was determined to penetrate to the heart of his mystery, Cook seems equally set on preserving her mystery all inviolate.
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