Holy Pictures (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
In the Roman Catholic Church, holy pictures are reminders of the lives of persons or saints. On the front side of such an artifact is the picture itself, beautifully detailed in radiant colors; on the back side, one finds indulgences or prayers, the recitation of which buys remission of temporal (purgatorial) punishment for sins pardoned by the receiving of the sacrament of penance. This custom provides the title and the organizing principle for Clare Boylan’s first novel, Holy Pictures.
When her father dies, halfway through the novel, Mary Cantwell receives from her friends numerous holy pictures. Sitting by her father’s trunk, Mary examines each of the pictures with pious attention, after which she places them on the floor of the empty trunk, closes and locks it, and places the key exactly where a jackdaw comes each night to carry shiny things away to his “heavenly lair.” Mary is surprised to find the trunk—her father’s secret hiding place—empty. When she first opened it, some weeks previously, she discovered a picture of a girl with a dark brown face, some brightly colored women’s clothing, and a bunch of old letters with one new one whose ink was still bright green and whose words promised: “Soon I come.” The trunk is kept in the Indian Room, a repository for Mr. Cantwell’s military treasures, mementos of the time he spent in India. Mary, while looking for some straw from last year’s crèche, had been drawn to the...
(The entire section is 2815 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1984)
Library Journal. CVIII, September 1, 1983, p. 1719.
Listener. CIX, March 10, 1983, p. 27.
New Statesman. CV, February 25, 1983, p. 28.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVIII, November 20, 1983, p. 9.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXIV, August 5, 1983, p. 81.
(The entire section is 28 words.)