The Sands of Time

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jaime Miro is a daring Basque “freedom fighter” who proposes to rescue three of his band from detention by the Spanish authorities. The plan succeeds, but the Spanish government is determined that this challenge to its authority should not go unanswered. In consequence, Colonel Ramon Accoa, whose methods are more suited to the regime of Franco than to the new democratic Spain, is ordered to capture Miro at all costs. In pursuit of this objective, Accoa raids a Cistercian convent to intimidate the Spanish Church and thus prevent Miro from obtaining Church assistance.

Unfortunately for Accoa, four of the Cistercian nuns escape the roundup and take to the hills. On the run from the authorities, the nuns fall in with Miro, and THE SANDS OF TIME is off to a rousing start. As the terrorists evade the authorities, each of the nuns is forced to reexamine her past and the reasons why she entered the convent. Sister Megan, who was orphaned at birth and found a “family” in the convent, finds herself drawn to Miro; Sister Lucia, the daughter of a Sicilian Mafioso, dreams of a new future in the arms of a farmer turned terrorist; Sister Graciela, the abused daughter of a prostitute, finds herself torn between sensual love and her commitment to the religious life; and Sister Teresa, haunted by an ancient decision and confused by the sudden reentry into the secular world, is driven to betray the group.

The action is fast and furious; Sheldon expertly handles twists of plot and the consequences of the unexpected and the accidental. Moreover, despite the suspenseful plot, Sheldon injects much humor in his tale. A few problems remain, however: Sheldon asserts that he researches each book in great detail--for example, restaurants mentioned actually exist, as do the contents of their menus--but he should have paid similar attention to other details. He places the bombing of Guernica in the post-Civil War period instead of during the height of the conflict on April 26, 1937, and, in his afterward, he seems unable to distinguish between pre-and post-Franco Spain. He also forgets whether Jaime Miro is thirty or fifty years of age.