Sister Ria

(creator: Thomas Eidson)


Souls of Angels cover
Sister Ria, aged in her mid-twenties in this book, had been born as Isadora Victorine Lugo in Mexican Los Angeles in 1857. Her mother had died when she was 11, and it was at this age that she heard a voice that "gently called her name ... God had spoken to her, she was absolutely convinced of it." The voice that was "so gentle, so loving and yet so frightening" had told her, "You will serve me."

She found it more and more difficult to get on with her increasingly eccentric father who always treated her as a son in place of her older brother who had also died. She had tried running away from home when she was 13, then again a year later. Finally, when she was 17, she had fled to Spain where she had joined the Benedictine Order of the Sisters of Mercy.

She had taken her new name and her vows on her 18th birthday, and had left immediately to work in a mission hospital in Poona in India. She had worked there for four years, but had not been frightened by the typhoid, cholera and smallpox "because God had been with her". Then she had volunteered to live in a village of lepers where she had spent three years, despite a sense of disgust that, to her dismay, had never left her, but "she had been doing God's work so it was bearable".

She is a courageous and determined young woman.

Thomas Eidson (1944 - ) began as a newspaper reporter in California and is now Executive Vice President of corporate affairs at Fidelity Investments in Boston, Massachusetts. His novels are set in the 19th century in the Old West, where his grandfather had run a cattle ranch in Kansas. It was out of oral family histories and storytelling that his books developed.

He writes for three hours every day before setting off at 7am to his Boston office. His second book, The Last Ride, was filmed as The Missing, and his St Agnes' Stand is also to be filmed. His interest in religious matters is evident in all his books, but Sister Ria only appears in his 5th book, Souls of Angels.

Souls of Angels (2006)
Souls of Angels is set in Los Angeles in the 1880s. When young Sister Ria, previously Isadora Lugo, learns that her father has been convicted of murder, she reluctantly makes the almost two month journey from India for the first time in ten years. She
had promised on her mother's deathbed that she would care for her wayward father but had never got on with him, and finds that he now spends his time in the family hacienda, sketching and painting, while he awaits his imminent execution in 8 days' time. "Always he had been a difficult man -- unstable, cross- grained, cynical, a scoffer; but now she sensed that he was insane."

Ria's father's room, when she first comes to see him, is as odd as he is, containing "baskets of fruit and candies and eggs ... bunches of flowers - some fresh, some dead - dozens of live rabbits, chickens and ducks", and "symbols of his odd collective sense of God: a crucified Christ, sixteenth-century portrait of Buddha, a framed verse from the Koran." Then there all "his beautiful garments - bright tunics, Afghans, jubbahs, kimonos - dozens of them." He himself "was lying on a stone platform in a corner of the room dressed in a mediaeval Japanese suit or armour."
"What are you doing, father?" she asked.
"Contemplating my death," was his reply.

Ria risks her own safety in the side streets and back alleys of Mexican Los Angeles as she tries to find out if he really had killed a prostitute, but every clue she finds hints at something darker and more sinister and weakens her faith, as an ominous unseen figure seems to shadow her every move. She realises it is probably too late to save his life, so urges him to confess his sins and save his soul. But he only mocks her efforts.

It is a remarkable and inventive story with realistically drawn characters that hold the interest throughout, right up to the exciting, unexpected but ultimately satisfying ending. The strange relationship between Sister Ria and her father is vividly brought to life, and it soon becomes all too clear why she prays, "Forgive me, I don't know how to stop hating him. I have tried, Lord. I've tried." But she continues, with both courage and perseverance, to try to save him from himself. It is all treated in a far from simplistic way, and, even if there are some melodramatic touches, it makes an intriguing story. Recommended.


There is an articles about the author on the Sydney Morning Herald site, although this refers to previous books. There is a review of Souls of Angels on the Los Angeles Times site.



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This cover does not seem particularly appropriate for what is a highly original and gripping story.
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