Divine power collides with modern-day earthly antics.
In this latest novel, the prolific Daughters (Resurrected Love, 2012, etc.) revisits the divine visionaries first introduced in 2008’s Jewel of the Adriatic. Anna Babic Robbins, one of the visionaries from a Croatian village where the Mother of God is said to appear, is now responsible for the monumental task of delivering the secrets of God’s plans for global renewal to a Roman Catholic priest in the suburbs of Chicago. Meanwhile, four best friends from those same suburbs gather for an extravagant bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Each brings her own demons lifted straight from the chick lit playbook: supermodel Marlo Waters hides an unwanted pregnancy; news anchor Bernadette O’Neal takes refuge in working nonstop; schoolteacher Tina grapples with her husband’s descent into mental illness; and ebullient bride Laci Marshall keeps dark secrets from her friends and fiancé alike. The narrative alternates between the seeming opposites of the women’s Vegas high jinks (including cavorting with the Vegas Chippendales—“a dozen, steamy hot strippers just for us!”) and the solemn preparations of Anna and her fellow believers. As the story continues, however, the four friends’ shared childhood as Catholic schoolgirls resurfaces and each must confront her own relationship with religion. Daughters (the shared pen name of sisters and co-authors Pat Casiello and Kathie Clare) does an admirable job weaving together a multitude of interconnected storylines. That complexity is excessive at times—a side plot about a sadistic serial killer feels especially out of place—but the novel’s brisk pace never lags. More distracting are the characters’ cookie-cutter roles and implausibly swift transformations—doubters find faith, family feuds vanish—most of which feel predestined from the outset. “Involuntarily,” Daughters writes of one skeptic, “she internalized the message and belief gelled.” Still, some loose ends remain at the story’s abrupt conclusion, dangling just tantalizingly enough to suggest a sequel. Despite the book’s overtly Catholic values, the characters carefully specify that the goodness of the story’s God “isn’t a Catholic thing. It’s for everybody.” Though some readers may disagree with that assessment, Daughters’ zippy plot remains a refreshingly lively vehicle for exploring faith and morality.
A spirited mash-up of Catholic inspirational tale and gal pal comedy, flawed but nonetheless worthwhile.