In her first novel, Lilly (The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror, 2011) offers a surprising supernatural thriller with a feminist bent.
Tara, a young college student, is pregnant. That’s not unusual; but the fact that she’s also a virgin is. In disbelief, her boyfriend and his sister, Tara’s best friend, turn away from her, her family calls for psychological intervention, and her doctor is plain confused. The only person who believes her is Cyril, a mysterious stranger from a religious order called the Brotherhood of Andrew of Crete; he tells Tara that she’s likely the mother of the next Messiah. Although Cyril’s sudden appearance and Tara’s acceptance of it aren’t entirely convincing, their dynamic relationship holds up, and their compelling connection takes its first twist when Tara finds out her baby is a girl—a discovery that doesn’t align with the prophecy. Cyril leaves Tara, and she flees to Chicago, where she seeks Sophia, the professor who wrote the Feminine Face of God, a book Tara recently acquired. Sophia finds Tara a place to stay and seeks to help her understand her situation, until an overheard conversation between them ends up as a local newspaper story. Tara is on the run again, from safe haven to safe haven, until Cyril finds her and professes his belief in her. Their renewed connection brings on a trip to Armenia, a television appearance and a visit with the pope. A few moments in particular require a substantial suspension of disbelief, but this light read is also a brainy one, asking readers to reconsider fundamental societal truths. The fast-paced story derives suspense from the questions it poses regarding feminism, origins and religion, culminating with a sudden end that presents new questions, which Lilly’s sequel should answer.
Sharp and satisfying.