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Lambs of God Hardcover – April 13, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A man intrudes on an all but extinct order of pastoral nuns in this intriguing but heavy-handed parable from Australian crime-novelist Day. Sisters Iphigenia, Margarita and Carla live in a ruined monastery on a remote Australian island, tending their only flock: the Agnes sisters, sheep named for nuns who have died. The rhythm of life is seasonal and canonical: washing day, shearing day, Christmas, Lent. It's hard to say what year it is... until Father Ignatius arrives with a cellular phone to assess what he thought was abandoned property. A career churchman, Ignatius wants to turn a profit by transforming the forgotten nunnery into a luxury retreat for businessmen. The story takes a Stephen King turn when the nuns realize that the priest's plans threaten them. Ignatius is drugged with herbal tea, stripped, shaved and plastered up to the waist in a cast. Still, the priest's presence provokes different reactions from each nun, stirring up long-dormant secrets that threaten to tear apart their community. Ignatius himself undergoes something more than a physical transformation as he is forced to reassess the meaning of his mission in the church. Although Day has undeniable storytelling gifts and weaves together an impressive number of storytelling traditions (classical, biblical, Celtic and fairy tale), the novel's rather kitschy setup and often gruesomely graphic feminist symbolism may force even sympathetic readers to share Ignatius's feeling that "There were parts of the story that even he was having trouble swallowing." BOMC, One Spirit Book Club and Quality Paperback Club featured alternate selections; foreign rights sold in the U.K. (Anchor), Australia (Allen & Unwin), Germany (Piper) and the Netherlands (Vassalecci). (Apr.) FYI: Lambs of God has been optioned by Fox 2000, with Winona Ryder as producer and costar.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Within the walls of their remote island monastery, three nuns lead a simple life centered around their flock of sheep. The Catholic church seems to have forgotten their existence. The women shave their heads, wear rough woolen clothes they have knitted themselves, and dine on nettles. One of the nuns, Iphigenia, has a keen sense of smell, and one day her nose tells her a man has arrived on their island. Within a few days, the nuns have taken him captive. He is a priest, yet he is an enemy with big plans to turn their island into a posh resort. Sister Carla, the youngest, has never seen a man before. She becomes fascinated with Father Ignatius, providing some of the book's funniest scenes. After one attempt at running away, the poor man finds his legs encased in plaster. Suspense builds admirably to a somewhat pat yet satisfying ending. Australian author Day has written a quirky spiritual thriller with wide appeal. The film rights have been optioned, with Winona Ryder as producer and costar.?Keddy Ann Outlaw, Harris Cty. P.L., Houston
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (April 13, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573220795
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573220798
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,449,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By areynesw@ozemail.com.au on October 24, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Marele Day is a young Australian writer. This book has come out here in Australia in a trade paperback format and so I have read it before it's published there. I finished the book in one day. It was indeed a lucky day for her readers when Marele Day decided to write not about crime and not featuring Claudia Valentine, P.I., Australian present day female private investigator. Mind you these books featuring Claudia are themselves pleasures to read especially if you are one interested in a city's atmosphere, topography, its citizens, how and where they live their lives and not just the intellectual challenge of the crimes. Lambs of God is completely different. Take three nuns living in isolation. They have developed their own rituals, an intertwining of the religious, the mysterious and the downright hilarious. There are very effective descriptions which give the reader a sense of place- a very old monastery, vegetation sprouting out of a statue of the virgin Mary's head, an island at high tide from which one can walk to the mainland at low tide. The name of this place is never divulged. Into this small triangle walks a priest with modern worldly motives. He has plans for the monastery which will change the nuns' strange world. So we are drawn in. The women with their strong spirituality and resourcefulness in the face of threat, the man bustling with businesslike scheming. One anticipates violence- it does not fall into that although tension is maintained. At times it is erotic in an innocent funny way. There are rituals of harvest, cooking, weaving, story telling - I felt like I had entered a different world altogether. Stories open on to other stories as the reader is let into each nun's mind then into the priest's. Who would think of breathing life into a mobile phone?Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Although reviewers certainly have ample reason to praise the nuns' unusual combination of pagan and religious ritual, their imaginative story-telling, and the honest pleasure they find in their "cloistered" lives, not enough praise is given, in my opinion, to the quirky humor of this book. Whether you are an agnostic who chuckles to see religious practices carried to outrageous extremes or a devoutly Catholic believer with the healthy ability to recognize when true faith goes over the top, you will find this book a delight. Painted with a very broad brush, the novel will keep you smiling, even as you admire the author's skill in sympathetically creating a most unusual cloistered world.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Haschka TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
"They were unkempt, practically savages. Their teeth were yellow, their skin lined and leathery. They wore no shoes. Everything about them suggested that they let nature just take its course."
Such is the disconcerting observation concerning Sister Iphigenia, Sister Margarita, and Sister Carla by Father Ignatius in LAMBS OF GOD. (No immaculately white wimples here!) When I was a young lad attending Catholic elementary school, the nuns, though occasionally intimidating, were blessedly cut from different cloth.
Fr. Ignatius is the bishop's private secretary sent to reconnoiter the property of a deserted and forgotten island abbey (presumably in Ireland, though the book never states). The diocese wants to sell the site to a land developer, which has plans to create a posh resort. To the cleric's consternation, the abbey is still inhabited by the three named nuns and their flock of sheep. The sisters believe the sheep harbor the souls of the nunnery's deceased members. Isolation from the rest of the world has rendered the three just a little ... well, touched in the head, and their religious observances a peculiar blend of pagan and Christian. When Ignatius announces that the nuns are to be relocated and the sheep butchered, it doesn't go over well.
This novel by Marele Day is a gentle and low key fable of confrontation between the religious women, determined not to lose the only life they know, and the ambitious, young priest from the mainland. Managing to incapacitate the cleric and hold him incommunicado, it's their intent to "convert" him to their community lifestyle. On the other hand, Ignatius knows that to escape, he must divide and conquer, so to speak. In the course of this test of wills, we discover some deep and startling secrets harbored by the sisterhood.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Cborges on April 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
I loved this quirky novel because it kept surprising me. Like the mysterious convent buried in brambles, the secret lives of these nuns kept unfolding in ways that astonished me and made me laugh out loud. Magical-realism is a tricky genre, but Day certainly managed to dance along quite nicely within its bounds. I couldn't believe the relationship that developed between the nuns & the sheep or between the nuns and the priest. It was wonderfully bizarre and yet somehow very touching. The way Day explores the motif of being exiled from the world, and the way she contrasts this a natural lust to explore, deftly provides much to think about. It's a far-out book that people might not pull in people who want an ordinary plot, but for those readers who enjoy having their minds stretched and their funny bones tickled, this is a memorable book!
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