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Twenty-two years ago, Madeleine Seymour suffered every parent's worst fear. Now the nightmares are back.
In Pilgrimage, Ms. Sunderland does a great job of telling a tough story--that of an agonized mother seeking spiritual and emotional redemption.
Pilgrimage begins with Madeleine confiding in her beloved pastor of the distant event that has returned to haunt her nights. He recommends a break, a 'vacation' to Italy, where she and her husband, Jack, had traveled years ago. This time, however, he draws up a list of twelve churches that she is to visit in the order listed. He doesn't say why; he leaves that discovery to her.
So, Madeline and Jack embark on a three-week journey, the itinerary of which includes Rome, Milan, Venice, Bologna, as well as other cultural/religious centers in Italy. At each stop, Madeleine takes another step toward spiritual healing, understanding and self-forgiveness through the lives and lessons of the saints--living and dead--who inhabit the churches they visit.
What is uniquely fascinating about Pilgrimage, is the history--Biblical and traditional--the reader learns about each of these centers of worship and their patrons. Not to fear, though, that it reads like a travelogue; Ms. Sunderland, although thorough and highly descriptive in her treatment of the religious sites, does a great job of weaving this information into a multi-threaded storyline. It is, after all, a novel. As Madeleine focuses on the issue depriving her of sleep, a subplot of intrigue builds against her because of an object she carries. What is it? Sorry.
Ms. Sunderland betrays an intense love and profound respect for the richness and glory of God-centered liturgy, something sorely lacking in evangelical Christianity today--let alone Christian fiction. She delivers historical-ecclesiastical information in an interesting and entertaining way through the characters' dialog and meditations, avoiding pedantic narrative digressions. Her prose is excellent, descriptions vivid, plot revelations subtle, and love for/knowledge of her subject evident.
Oh, and you also learn a lot about what to eat and drink in Italy (Jack's primary interest). The descriptions of their meals had me scrambling for the 'fridge more often than necessary. There's a drawback, if you're looking for one.
.I am really glad Ms. Sunderland wrote this book. It entertains, educates, and makes you think, all at the same time and in an even balance. I can think of two people right off the top of my head I'm going to order copies for. Looking forward to reading her next novel, Offerings, soon to be released by OakTara.