The heartrending story of the forbidden love between a nun and a priest-by a writer who illuminates the details of everyday life, from the quiet rhythms of the cloister to the exuberant sensuality of the Amalfi Coast
When her family moves to Puerto Rico in the early 1950s, thirteen-year-old Beryl Bissell enters a milieu heady with sexuality and passion. Uncomfortable in her developing body and yearning for unconditional love, she becomes convinced that only God can satisfy her longing. On the day following her eighteenth birthday, she enters a cloistered convent in New Jersey, believing that God has called her to this way of life.
At first, she is blissfully happy. Within the year, however, she has become anorectic and prey to other obsessive compulsions. Her vocation at risk, she overcomes these disorders and perseveres for another ten years, until she must return home to Puerto Rico to help care for her ailing father.
Thrust once more into the sensual world of Puerto Rico, she discovers that religious garb cannot protect her from her budding sexuality. She is drawn to Padre Vittorio, a handsome Italian priest, and undergoes a belated coming of age. For the next three years, as she travels to and from the island, she struggles to reconcile human desire with spiritual longing. Unable to confide in either her mother or abbess, she tries to find the inner freedom that would allow her to love fully. The events that follow take the reader on a dizzying journey into the heart of desire, both spiritual and human.
In spare but lyric language, Bissell weaves a powerful story of love, death, guilt, and redemption-a pilgrimage that reaches beyond dogma to personal truth and evokesa transformation that changes not only herself, but the lives of those whom she loves most.