Modern Lit: Each Angel Burns, by Kathleen Valentine

Each Angel BurnsTurning Points

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Somewhat reminiscent of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Mermaid Chair, Each Angel Burns is a story of relationships and turning points among a group of friends who have reached their fiftieth birthdays. The narrative revolves primarily around Maggie, a sculptor in a loveless marriage to a wealthy playboy, and the de-consecrated Maine monastery which she is converting as an art center. Just before her marriage, Maggie fell hard for Pete while they were studying in Paris, but she could not bring herself to lure him from the seminary where he was training for the priesthood. Pete’s best friend, Gabe, also unhappily married, is recruited by Pete to carry out Maggie’s building plans. The monastery served as a convent to a community of nuns, and has had a reputation for mystery and miracles. Now, a series of young women have been brutally murdered, and the sheriff suspects that the convent’s crypts and tunnels are connected to these crimes.

What unfolds is a love story, a romance, really, in which even the minor characters must take stock of their lives and decide where to go from here. It proceeds at a leisurely pace, with most of the actions taking place within a small town bar called “The Arm Pit”, and within the evocative setting of the monastery on the coast of Maine. Resonant with vivid imagery and inner struggles, Each Angel Burns shows that the journey of self-discovery does not end in adolescence.

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