Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Sisterhood by Helen Bryan


Menina Walker was a child of fortune. Rescued after a hurricane in South America, doomed to a life of poverty with a swallow medal as her only legacy, the orphaned toddler was adopted by an American family and taken to a new life. As a beautiful, intelligent woman of nineteen, she is in love, engaged, and excited about the future — until another traumatic event shatters her dreams. Menina flees to Spain to bury her misery in research for her college thesis about a sixteenth-century artist who signed his works with the image of a swallow — the same image as the one on Menina’s medal. But a mugging strands Menina in a musty, isolated Spanish convent. Exploring her surroundings, she discovers the epic sagas of five orphan girls who were hidden from the Spanish Inquisition and received help escaping to the New World. Is Menina’s medal a link to them, or to her own past? Did coincidence lead her to the convent, or fate? Both love story and historical thriller, The Sisterhood is an emotionally charged ride across continents and centuries

My take: 3 looks

Going back and forth in time, this is an epic tale spanning centuries, continents, and lives. It was gripping from the first chapter, and very easy to get lost in the story. However, as the past was explored and a number of characters were introduced, I found myself getting a little confused by the number of nuns, orphans, sea voyages, and nunneries.

 While the story of Menina started the tale, I felt that it quickly took a backseat to the events in the 1500s, including the Spanish Inquisition. I was left with many questions about Menina's life, whether or not she returned to the United States, and the possible estrangement from her adopted family.

On the other hand, I knew all I wanted to know about several nuns and novitiates, and young girls living under the protection of them. Without giving too much away, I felt a little cheated at the end, where time lept to the future, sharing what had become of Menina with little description of how she had traveled much of the path to get there. There were also questions about the suspicious people looking for Menina. What happened to them? What happened to Theo and his family? Did he ever get his comeuppance?

While this was an entertaining historical fiction tale, it left me less than satisfied. I will read one more by Bryan before recommending.

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