Saint Francis and "Brother Giacoma"
Rome, 1210. Lady Giacoma dei Settesoli is a capable, confident woman, happy in a loving marriage and possessed of great wealth and all the power it conveys. But when tragedy strikes and her world shatters, only the barefoot holy man from Assisi can pull her back from the abyss.
Her wealth and privilege now a burden, Giacoma yearns to follow Francesco in his Christ-like life of sacred poverty. But her sons, her household, her vassals, and the local beggars all rely on her--and soon, so does Francesco himself, as she finds ways to support his nascent brotherhood, vulnerable to a Church hierarchy quick to equate nonconformity with heresy.
Based on a true story, Lady of the Seven Suns tells of a woman who must thread her way between duty and faith. Her intelligence, compassion, and sense of humor support her as she strives to be worthy of the name Francesco affectionately bestowed on her: "Brother Giacoma."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Tinney Heath’s “Lady of the Seven Suns,” we meet Giacoma, a13th century noblewoman who wrestles with a question that plagues believers today: how does a Christian stay faithful to God while living in a world that prizes fame and wealth? Giacoma comes from prominent Roman families (by birth and marriage) and is an early supporter and follower of Francesco (St. Francis of Assisi), who is committed to owning literally nothing. Ms. Heath depicts Francesco as both a holy man and a human being, one who is beloved but not always easy to be around. I must admit: I knew little about Francesco before reading this novel. Ms. Heath’s depiction of the saint make him very real. Giacoma and Francesco’s relationship is not always easy. Giacoma must navigate being a widowed mother of two sons who expect to become knights, matriarch of an unconventional household, and benefactor of the poor as well as face troublesome kinsmen. She also must contend with her worries about Francesco’s health and her envy of Chiara (St. Clare) and the other woman’s closeness to Francesco in a life of holy poverty. Giacoma and Francesco’s friendship lasts decades as she watches and supports a nascent, revolutionary order grow into a movement. The story culminates in a poignant ending. Highly recommended.
I had previously read Heath's first novel, A Thing Done, so I was eager to read this, her second endeavor, especially because of the subject matter. Growing up Catholic, I, like many others, knew St. Francis (Francesco, in Heath's story) as the saint who loved animals and who came from Assisi. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge, but he intrigued me, especially now that Heath's well-researched story was before me. Does her St. Francis love animals? Sure, but there is so much more to him than that. We meet him through the point of view of the story's heroine, Giacoma. She is a noblewoman of Rome (and a historic figure) who finds her idyllic life shattered by a life-changing tragedy. It is through that tragedy that her relationship with Francis is solidified, and her life is forever altered. She dedicates herself to serving his burgeoning order. She hopes to emulate the future saint and his vow of extreme poverty, but Francis has other plans for her. Heath's characters are well-defined, her descriptions of Rome and Assisi are vivid and textural, and, as in her first novel, she provides a narrative filled with humor. Her heroine is relatable, and we feel her struggle to balance her life between her earthly family and her spiritual goals of following Francis's way of poverty.