A luminous debut, by Toronto-based Uppal, traces the birth of a young nun’s vocation back to an adolescent crime that returns to haunt its perpetrator.
Sister Angela began her life with no particular inclination toward religion. The daughter of an Ottawa carpenter, she was sent to live at the St X. School for Girls because her mother was chronically ill and couldn’t look after her. At the school, she was befriended by three cliquish and secretive girls who eventually invited her to join a secret society called the Sisterhood, which met once a week in Room 313. The Sisterhood was mostly innocent, although its meetings could descend as far as stripteases or live sex shows (these are convent school girls, after all). By the time she was a nun herself, Sister Angela had mostly forgotten about the Sisterhood—until someone anonymously mailed her a silver candlestick that had been used at the Sisterhood meetings. What could it mean? The Sisterhood had been abruptly disbanded, after all, when one of its meetings led to the accidental death of a girl who was trying to join—a death whose real nature had eluded the authorities at the time. Now Sister Angela has to face a part of her past that she’d been glad to forget, as well as the possibility that she’s being blackmailed. More than that, she has to sort out her motives for remaining, as a nun, in the same convent where she was miserable as a student. At the same time, she has her daily routine of prayer and work to maintain, along with a strained relationship with her younger sister and the well-being of an unwed expectant mother who is being cared for by the nuns. Maybe marriage and a career wouldn’t have been so bad?
Haunting, gripping, and surprisingly nuanced: begins as a simple mystery and turns into a work of great depth and seriousness.