Title: The Convent
Author: Panos Karnezis
Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: W.W. Norton Company
Source: Public Library
Date Completed: 1/1/2011
Setting: Our Lady of Mercy Convent - Spanish Sierra
Rating: 4/5 stars
In a remote area somewhere on the Spanish Sierra lies the Our Lady of Mercy convent. The Catholic convent was built in the 1600s, and many years later (1930s), the school for novices has closed its doors because of lack of interest. Now only six nuns remain at the crumbling convent. When a well worn suitcase with a baby boy inside is found on the steps on the convent steps, the delicate balance of convent life that the nuns have come to known is set to turmoil.
Of the six nuns, only two are hoping to keep and raise the mysterious newborn. Mother Superior, Sister Maria Ines, names the baby Renato, believes that his arrival is a sign from God. She has a dark secret past, and is sure that the baby is God's way of letting her know that her past sins are forgiven. Bit by bit the secrets are revealed, and when strange happenings begin to occur around the convent, the simple life of prayer and work is upset and the forces become divided. One nun even believes that the baby was sent by Satan and, Mother Superior becomes paranoid that others at the convent do not have the best interest of the baby in mind.
Although none of the nuns talk about their past to each other, each has secret reasons for choosing to enter the convent. It seemed that none of the nuns chose convent life so that they could devote their life to God, but rather at the time, convent life for at least a few of these nuns seemed to have been their best option in life at the time.
Overall I liked this novel. I loved the setting, the mystery element (even though it was easy to unravel), and I liked the writing as well. What disappointed me was the fact that the reader really only got to know two of the six nuns: Mother Superior and Sister Ana. The only male in the story was Bishop Estrada, and he was pretty much a non entity. The Convent is a short novel, just 212 pages, but I think the character development could have been expanded just a bit. If you enjoy a quick read, a story with long buried secrets fully revealed, and an unambiguous ending, then I suggest you add this one to your list of future reads. It did make me research other stories about convent life, as the setting was terrific.