A maudlin exploration of the paranormal events that surround Audrey Santo, a comatose 16-year-old from Worcester, Massachusetts, whom many consider to be a saint.
Promoting the notion that Audrey is Christ’s liaison, Felix (What Makes the Grand Canyon?, 1998, etc.) draws on press reports, television features, and interviews to chronicle her subject’s life. After Audrey’s close brush with death (from drowning) in 1987 left her dependent on life-support, her devout Catholic mother, Linda, took her on a pilgrimage to a Croatian village (in what was then still called Yugoslavia) where a group of children were reputed to be receiving apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Linda claims that during their pilgrimage the still-unconscious Audrey communicated with the Virgin Mary and volunteered to become a “victim soul”—a pious Christian who willingly takes on the pain of others in imitation of Christ. After their homecoming, Linda’s testimony was supported by a series of seemingly supernatural occurrences that took place in Audrey’s bedroom: for example, religious artifacts began to move, bleed, and leak oil. Audrey also developed stigmata—mysterious sores that resembled the crucifixion wounds of Christ. Convinced that Audrey was engaged in a silent conversation with Jesus, the family transformed their garage into a chapel and invited pilgrims to use the site as a place to pray for miracles. Although the Catholic Church has yet to conclude its investigation (and despite the fact that the Croatian visionaries have been condemned as frauds by their local bishop), Felix maintains that Linda’s assertions are truthful. She subtly discredits interviewees who question Audrey’s authenticity and portrays the Santos as living martyrs. Her overblown enthusiasm for her subject strips her reportage of credibility, however, and she fails to deliver concrete evidence, leaving us to wonder if Audrey is an ill-fated child who is being exploited. And although the material lends itself to high drama, intrigue, and intelligent speculation, the author’s vapid narration renders even the phenomena of bleeding paintings dull.
Nonbelievers won’t budge—and intrigued readers are better off requesting a transcript of the 20/20 feature that inspired Felix to write this bland and credulous account.