(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Nina Creed, who goes by the name Nin and is called the Aerobic Poet for the way her images pulse and bump together, seemingly has everything a woman could want. Her husband Andrew is her best friend, she teaches at a college in Duluth, and her father, who raised her, is a noted expert on Thomas Aquinas. But when she agrees to write a poem in honor of her father’s new translation of Aquinas, her comfortable interior world is jolted.

Upon rereading Aquinas for the first time in twenty years, Nin is shocked by the philosopher’s derogatory views of women. When she goes to Vermont for the celebration in honor of her father’s latest book, other shocks await her. Her father is vague when she asks him what her mother was working on in Haifa, where she died. An intense, burly man, a Dominican, appears at the reception and seems to be following her. Nin suspects he is a spy for the Vatican. And Nin meets Sister Hildegard, a nun who sees and draws visions.

Soon, Nin is asked to help lead a group on a tour of Israel; their pilgrimage is to be a woman writers’ seminar on imagination and the soul. Thinking this could help her find her own spiritual and intellectual roots and discover traces of her mother’s lost work, Nin accepts. As they visit gravesites, caves of refuge, and other holy places, Nin finds herself accompanied by two medieval scholars: Marguerite Porete and Christine de Pizan. They whisper new insights to her about literature and...

(The entire section is 455 words.)