Maia (Teresa) Wojciechowska Edward Fenton - Essay

Edward Fenton

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Maia Wojciechowska is obviously on the side of the angels. Her new book [A Single Light] is a legend imbued with the desperation of the human need for love. Its vivid setting is the harsh, gnarled landscape of Spanish Andalucia. In it lies a poverty-ridden town named, symbolically, Almas—Spanish for "souls." Its heroine is a deaf-and-dumb girl, so unloved by her widower father that he has even neglected to name her. She is a creature of seraphic simplicity, unsentimentally portrayed….

It is after her "miracle," her discovery of [a lost statue of the infant Christ], that a middle-aged American art expert appears on the scene. A failure, as rejected and as thirsty for human love as the Andalusian deaf mute, his adult life has been a single-minded quest for this very statue—a missing work by a Renaissance sculptor.

As the villagers learn of their unsuspected treasure's value, the story turns into an ironic study of human greed. It concludes with a miracle of understanding and regeneration which some readers may find a little too pat.

Maia Wojciechowska's message of love and understanding is somewhat impaired by didacticism and over-simplification. And yet, although her new book is not entirely successful, it is a far better one than most, which are less ambitious and do succeed.

Edward Fenton, in his review of "A Single Light," in Book World—Chicago Tribune (© 1968 Postrib Corp.; reprinted by permission of Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post), May 5, 1968, p. 22.