Having studied in a convent from the age of four plus, I have a liking for anything convent or monastery like and this one fitted the bill.
Starting in Toronto Marie Claire seems to have it all - a career going places, a very handsome boyfriend with whom she sees a steady future ahead and everything looks rosy until she overhears a telephone conversation and her world is shattered. Determined to go out with chin up she moves away from Toronto back to Ireland to the comfort of what she knows best. Her family.
The timing is right - her beloved grand aunt's eightieth birthday and her retirement from the nunnery and the religious life and getting to meet her mother and father who will return to Ireland and meet up with her grandmother irascible though she is.
Woven into the strands of Marie Claire's life is also the life of Brigid (the nun) and Imelda her grandmother. Both are complicated lives with secrets hidden deep for decades. Then there is Marie Claire's mother and father with plenty of secrets of their own. At the eightieth birthday party with friends and religious present Imelda's viciousness holds no bounds and she lets it all rip apart destroying all pretense of family togetherness.
How to calm everyone down and bring some kind of peace to the family is the work of Brigid who wants to end the festering bitterness and animosity hidden. This is done in a particularly remarkable pilgrimage which was totally new to me (I am now looking into that aspect as it was a fascinating one).
A family saga with lots of history thrown in especially the role of the Church in the lives of Irishwomen and what disadvantages they faced as women by being part of the Church which was an intrinsic part of their lives.
This was a wonderful novel to read.
Thanks to Netgalley who sent it to me for an unbiased review, courtesy of Atria Books