Sisters Iphigenia, Margarita, and Carla are the last remaining members of the enclosed order of St. Agnes. As Marele Day’s LAMBS OF GOD opens, they have been living in an isolated island monastery for “many years.” They have no contact with the outside world and live their lives by the routine of the seasons. They are expert knitters and live among their small herd of sheep whose bodies are thought to be inhabited by the spirits of the departed nuns. Their lives are disrupted one spring day by the appearance of a young priest, and before too long the nuns find out that the priest is there to survey the property in order to sell it to a resort company. The scared, but very clever, sisters hold the priest captive until they can figure out a way to resolve the situation.
There are not many major events that take place in this novel. Most of the action is in the thoughts of the four main characters. Sisters Iphigenia and Margarita must come to terms with the appearance of the priest, who brings with him shades of the modern world which revives long forgotten childhood memories of the outside. Sister Carla was raised in the monastery and with the simple innocence of a child she finds that there is a whole world that exists outside of the monastery. The priest struggles with the humility of being held in bondage. He has to submit himself to his faith in God like he never has before.
This story is written with captivating prose. The unabashed descriptions of the ritual sacrifice and the unhygienic nuns, as well as the detailed descriptions of knitting, spider webs, and the deteriorating monastery, make this story very intriguing. Marele Day layers fairytale upon folklore, biblical tales upon mythology to create an overwhelmingly real place, and unlikely heroines in the unworldly Sisters.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCIV, March 1, 1998, p. 1091.
The Christian Century. CXV, July 15, 1998, p. 693.
Library Journal. CXXIII, February 15, 1998, p. 169.
The New York Times Book Review. CIII, July 19, 1998, p. 18.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, February 2, 1998, p. 79.
The Times Literary Supplement. September 5, 1998, p. 21.