Review by Booklist Review
Sister Johanna's refuge in a rural French convent can't hide her from the past, which comes screeching to the fore in the form of orders from manipulative, politically savvy Cardinal Raffin. New information has emerged regarding a case she investigated for Raffin decades ago in Reykjavík, forcing Sister Johanna to steel herself to confront her life's gravest mistake. Through flashbacks, Sister Johanna reveals her first trip to Iceland in 1987, when her knowledge of Icelandic enabled her to investigate abuse allegations against Father August Frans, the parish school's headmaster. In Reykjavík, Johanna became fast friends with the local bishop's assistant, who helped her pry information from the city's secretive Catholic community. Sister Johanna was certain that Father August was guilty of abusing his students, but Raffin abruptly ordered her to close the investigation without conclusion after Augustus plummeted from a bell tower in an apparent suicide. Now, Sister Johanna resigns herself to face the secrets she's hidden for 40 years. Her increasingly explosive revelations drive this gripping, masterfully constructed story toward redemption and justice.--Christine Tran Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Olafsson (One Station Away) offers a mesmerizing and powerful look at abuse in the Catholic Church through the eyes of an elderly French nun called upon to revisit a two-decades-old case from 1987 in Iceland. Back then, Sister Johanna Marie, brought in to investigate because she had learned the language from her Icelandic college roommate, discovered that priests engaged in abhorrent behavior with impunity. Now, in 2009, she would rather tend her convent's rose garden, but when a Cardinal calls upon her to obtain new evidence from a witness who will speak only to her, she agrees to help. The circumstances of the original case are vividly recalled: during an investigation of a priest accused of abusive behavior, the priest fell to his death from a bell tower. Johanna is concerned now about what this witness remembers and what he will reveal. Besides the investigation particulars, the reader discovers why Johanna became a nun and why she had to mask her feelings for her college roommate--a hidden love that impacted the rest of her life. The author shines a light on the enigmatic workings of the Catholic Church and, in an astounding dénouement, delves into the balance between justice and vengeance, and the power of conviction, absolution, and redemption. This is an incisive novel. (Dec.)
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Review by Library Journal Review
Could a nun's placid exterior hide a complicated and conflicted inner life? In his latest novel (after One Station Away), former Time Warner vice president Olafsson toys with the reader's assumptions. Prior to joining her order and taking the name Sister Marie Joseph, young Frenchwoman Pauline studied at the Sorbonne, where she found herself attracted to her charming Icelandic roommate, Halla. Throughout her ecclesiastical life, a diabolical priest threatens her with knowledge of her lesbian inclinations and finally sends her to Iceland to investigate a sexual predator priest, believing that he can manipulate her into whitewashing her report. Nevertheless, Sister Marie Joseph and a local man named Pall form a pair of dogged detectives, with the case taking a surprising turn. VERDICT Olafsson deftly braids present and past events as Sister Marie Joseph grapples with her recollections of Halla while ensnaring herself in the investigation. The sister's first-person voice seems dry and dispassionate, but the novel confounds our expectations, sifting through memory, as it evolves into a low-simmering psychological thriller. Recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 6/10/19.]--Reba Leiding, emerita, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Building his plot around the issue of child abuse by Catholic clergy, Olafsson (One Station Away, 2017, etc.) explores complex issues of morality and, to quote Corinthians, "faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."Locked in a broom closet as punishment for a minor offense, Icelandic Catholic schoolboy Unnar witnesses Father August Frans fall from a bell tower to his death in 1987. French nun Sister Johanna Marie is in Reykjavik at the time investigating anonymous charges of abuse against August Frans. Thirty years later she revisits the city because Unnar has written saying he has more information to give her concerning what he saw. Olafsson's portrait of his homeland is almost as vivid as his portrayal of narrator Sister Johanna Marie, whose measured, melancholy voice expresses great internal ferocity. Traveling back to Reykjavik, the now aged nun reconsiders her 1987 investigation as well as her life in Paris during the 1960s, both times of emotional stress. As a repressed Sorbonne student named Pauline, she fell deeply in love with her Icelandic roommate, Halla, drawn to Halla's capacity for joy (and love of the Beatles). Although Pauline never expressed her passion, Father Raffin, an observant young priest, shamed her into cutting off communication with Halla. Pauline became a nun out of "despair," hoping to "find freedom in faith." As a rising star at the Vatican in the 1980s ambitious, morally ambiguous Raffin, whose "ability to speak to people as if he were standing in their shoes, and yet at the same time superior" represents the church's power over its congregants, deliberately sent Johanna Marie to Halla's home, Iceland. Her task proved impossible: Despite evidence of harmed children, a wall of silence encircled August FransOlafsson implicates church authorities without becoming polemicalforcing the nun into enormous, life-altering choices, including whether to seek Halla. Now returning to Iceland, again at Raffin's order, Johanna Marie faces distressing truths yet finds something like peace.Emotionally gratifying and spiritually challenginga compelling novel that grabs the reader's psyche and won't let go. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.