Tess da Costa was believed to work miracles but lost street cred after failing to find Ana, a child abductee; when, months after Tess dies, Ana’s found alive, Tess appears slated for sainthood—unless her sister, Callie, can stop it.
Callie, white and wrapped in grief and anger, has no compassion to spare for Tess’ followers, desperately coping with troubles of their own, or for Tess’ Puerto Rican boyfriend, Danny, whom she recruits in her crusade. Callie’s failing in school and at war with her hospital-receptionist single mom. Her feelings for Tess (and the church) are complicated. If Tess, 17, was the angel, Callie, 16, felt like her demonic twin. Tess’ journal, excerpted throughout, reveals that being cast as saintly was no picnic, either. Not all plot elements mesh neatly. Callie and Danny’s hunt for Ana’s abductor, a plot thread explored partly from Ana’s point of view, has gravitas; however resolved, a child abduction leaves lasting scars. While Callie’s family history takes up a fair chunk of plot real estate, she’s the story’s beating heart—scrappy, resentful, funny, and, above all, observant of her hardscrabble, working-class southeastern Massachusetts town and its denizens. Of Portuguese, Latino, and Irish descent (but not Cape Verdean), with strong cultural and religious (Roman Catholic) immigrant ties, they’ve struggled economically since the mills closed.
Plot and pacing could be tighter, but packed with vivid cultural scenery, this ambitious debut offers readers a journey worth taking. (Fiction. 12-16)