The new novel by the author of the Somerset Maugham Awardwinning Daughter of Jerusalem charts one nun's spiritual journey away from the church. When Sister Kitty is raped in the Central American town ironically named Santa Virgine, the nuns in her convent find their assurance violated, but few so strongly as Sister Anna, who, near mental collapse, retires for a year's sabbatical in Britain. There, research leads her to discover Christianity's brutal role in Latin American colonization; she is equally horrified by the interdictions of theological ``Fathers.'' However, in Caro, a brain-damaged child in her care, she detects a seductively playful opposing voice, and Karen, the intellectually vigorous radical lesbian who befriends Anna, points to new possibilities for the vow of virginity. When these female voices finally silence those of the Fathers, Anna leaves the convent for brave virgin territory all her own. Feminists and iconoclasts will applaud Maitland's eloquent array of female characters and her coherent opposition of male and female archetypes. Other readers may find the book a bit heavy going and didactic. (March 14)
After the rape of a fellow nun in the South American village where Sister Anna has been stationed by her North American order, Anna is removed to Londonostensibly to conduct research, but in reality to recover from a near breakdown. There she learns of atrocities committed in Latin America in the name of Christianity, works closely with a brain-damaged child, becomes friendly with a radical lesbian: all of which causes her to reassess her faith, her vocation, and her life. Written with emotional intensity and clarity, this powerful novel is recommended for larger fiction collections, especially those with a commitment to feminist material. Maitland is the author of A Map of the New Country: women and Christianity (1983). Jeanne Buckley, ERIC Clearinghouse, Syracuse, N.Y.