Sisters of the Last Straw

(creator: Karen Kelly Boyce)

Karen Kelly Boyce
The Sisters of the Last Straw are an entertaining, eccentric and highly unlikely group of misfit nuns. Founded by Mother Mercy and Sister Krumbles, the order "was for sisters who had not been able to stay in other convents because of bad habits. Each of the Sisters in the order had a bad habit that she was trying to overcome. They had to help each other." So Mother Mercy had always found it easy to lose her temper, Sister Lacey had a habit of using bad words but had learnt instead to say funny things (like "Screaming Sister Shenanigans"), Sister Lovely could not stop smoking, and the fat, awkward but endearing Sister Krumbles always made a mess of things. However it is Sister Krumbles who by accident or design helps solve the mysteries that crop up.

it was their Bishop who "seemed to find the whole idea funny" who had jokingly given the order their name. Mother Mercy had decided to make herself the Mother Superior "thinking that it would take care of her 'disobedience'." The nuns make a lively bunch whose slapstick antics may well amuse the lower end of the 6-12 year age range which the author was aiming to entertain and guide - but how many children nowadays even know what nuns are?

Karen Kelly Boyce lives on a farm in New Jersey with her retired husband. She has two grown children and two grandchildren. After she was diagnosed with end stage Lyme Disease, she had to retire as a Registered Nurse, but she went on to publish four adult books, including a description of her journey through breast cancer. Then when her grandchildren were born, she started a children's series, Sisters of the Last Straw (reviewed below). She is very grateful to the Sisters of Mercy who used to teach her: and hopes that "the books teach children to be forgiving. I know the series make children laugh. It makes me laugh to think about God’s sense of humor. I’m a senior citizen now, but I haven’t changed much. I am still writing about nuns." She is currently working on future books while enjoying farming, camping, and road trips with her husband.

The Case of the Haunted Chapel (2012) - mysterious voices are heard in the chapel.
The Case of the Missing Novice (2013) - the latest recruit disappears.
The Case of the Stolen Rosaries (2014) - who is the mysterious thief?

These three short books are very similar in style and content. They are full of slapstick humor, including an exploding cake (for which Sister Krumbles had used baking powder instead of flour), exploding jam jars (another slight miscalculation on Sister Krumble's part) and the nuns' desperate attempts to recapture Crayons and other fleeing goats: a "tiny nun found herself riding belly down on the back of the multi-colored doe. With her feet dragging behind Crayons in the mud, she started yelling, "Oh ... once we get them, how are we supposed to stop them?" Again Crayons escaped her grip. As the rest of the goats turned to run away, Sister Lovely grabbed a beautiful black and white goat with blue eyes. She ... managed to stop the goat, but landed on her bum in the mire while the fidgeting goat tried to get away." Then "a grey and white goat came running out of some bushes and with her head bent, butted Mother Mercy on the behind. The power of that push landed the chubby nun faced down into the sludge."

Sister Krumbles really comes into own when the nuns are given a lift back to their convent in a police paddy wagon, and she is allowed to control the siren. She "was beside herself with glee. As the paddy wagon gained velocity, she pointed to a side street and Officer Mallon skidded as he tried to make the sharp turn. As the wagon turned on just two wheels, the nuns in the back got tossed off the bench. Sister Shiny tried to stop herself, but she landed on the floor. Sister Lovely went flying through the air and smack dab into Sister Lacey. Sister Lacey got knocked off the bench and right into Novice Kathy. Novice Kathy tried to move out of the way quickly and instead, with her hands up in the air, crashed into Mother Mercy. During all this, "Sister Krumbles kept the siren blaring. She was having so much fun that she didn't hear the nuns in the back screaming. The nuns got tossed back-and-forth, as the truck continued its journey."

But there's a bit more to these stories than just knockabout humor. The nuns are shown as a caring community who turn to Jesus for help. As Mother Mercy told her nuns, "Go to the chapel and pray. Spend some time with the only One who can help. Spend some time with Jesus." And when Mother Mercy ticks off Novice Kathy for not letting "anyone know where you are. Jesus wouldn't make people worry," A child's voice interrupts, "I think you're wrong about that .... We just learned in school that Jesus got lost the three days when he was just 12 years old and his family travelled to the temple. When they left, both Mary and Joseph thought that Jesus was with the other one." They "were very angry when they finally found Jesus talking to the elders in the temple. They asked him how he could do this to them - worry them so. Jesus said that they should have known - known that he would be in his Father's house."
Mother Mercy hung her head in shame, "I'm so sorry for what I said. I need to control my temper. You weren't in your Father's house, but you were about your Father's business."
There's no hard sell but a nice light touch about these little religious messages and the stories are certainly fun to read, even for (some) adults.

The author has her own website and has contributed an interesting guest blog about her debt to the nuns who taught her on the Erin McCole Cupp site.

Please sign my GUEST BOOK. All comments, contributions (or corrections) welcomed!


The Case of the Haunted Chapel cover
The amusing illustrations by Sue Anderson Gioulis considerably add to the fun of these children's stories.
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