Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 285
The main characters are Homer Smith, whom the German-speaking sisters call Schmidt and the Mother, Marie Marthe. Other nuns play supplementary roles, and Homer works for Orville Livingston and becomes friends with a Latino man, Juan Archuleta.
Homer is traveling through the U.S. Southwest after getting out of the military. He is a young African American man, a self-described Southern Baptist. Happening upon a group of strangely dressed women working in a field, he wonders if they have work for him. Through a series of conversations and arrangements, he ends up staying much longer than he expected and building a chapel for their mission.
The sisters have come from Hungary and East Germany, and seem to be living as refugees in the U. S. While they have a lot of supplies, which seem to be donations, they have practically no money. The Mother, Maria Marthe, is a tough but loving woman who convinces Homer to work for room and board. Sister Agnes, Albertine, Elizabeth, and Gertrude are the other nuns. The author does not particularly distinguish one from the other, except that Sister Albertine sings well.
Livingston, who runs a construction company in the nearby town, first hires Homer and later gets caught up with the cause and donates bricks for the chapel. He had been friends with Gus Ritter, the man who willed his property to the nuns.
Archuleta, of whom Homer is initially suspicious, offers to help him with the window, a complicated part the project. He was a member of the Spanish-language church congregation. More importantly, he invites Homer to his home to eat dinner, meet his family, and play the guitar; he becomes the only real friend Homer makes there.
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