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The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn: A Novel Hardcover – March 2, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (March 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060559195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060559199
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,550,254 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Told in alternating chapters by four strong voices, The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn is at once a story of hope and desperation, of fact and fantasy. Janis Hallowell's characters' distinctive voices come through with absolute clarity: Chester, the homeless man who believes that Francesca is the Blessed Virgin and names himself her protector; Francesca, a shy, withdrawn, 14-year-old who plays the cello and longs for her father's attention following her parents' divorce; Sid, Francesca's troubled and mostly loyal best girlfriend; and Anne, Francesca's all-business, world-traveling, I-love-my-daughter-but-science-is-god paleobotanist Mom.

Hallowell describes the line where the wish to believe in a divine presence crosses over into holy madness and the conviction that the wish has been fulfilled. Chester says, after noticing the strong fragrance of roses emanating from Francesca when she "appears" to him: "The smell of roses, the velvety ache of them, lured me in…I am no newcomer to strangeness... It's my curse and my blessing that I can smell things that other people can't... Anger coming off a person is an acrid, mustardy thing... and lying has a cloying, soapy small that makes my mouth pleat." He is not surprised that he is the first to know that Francesca is a Blessed Virgin, carrying a Savior.

While the novel is reminiscent of David Guterson's Our Lady of the Forest, Hallowell's characters are infinitely more appealing; they are eccentric without being caricatures. Everyone in the story has dimension and importance: Ronnie, the restaurant owner who serves meals to the homeless; her sister Rae and Rae's son Jonah, a lovable five-year-old genius, and Father Gervais, a hip Jesuit who is sent to verify Francesca's healings as miraculous--all contribute mightily to a tightly woven fable. --Valerie Ryan

From Publishers Weekly

A fleeting cult of the Virgin Mary springs up around a Boulder, Colo., teenager serving meals to the homeless in Hallowell's spacey, lightweight debut. Francesca Dunn is a fairly ordinary eighth-grader at a local school for kids who have emotional problems-in Francesca's case, an eating disorder after the divorce of her scientist parents. She and her best girlfriend, Sid, who cuts herself and has a drunken, lonely mother needing sympathy and money, work at Ronnie's Cafe helping out with meals for the homeless, where a delusional transient named Chester is seized suddenly with the fantasy that Francesca is the embodiment of the Virgin and can bless the sick. The idea catches on alarmingly, attracting zealots and sufferers who camp in droves around Francesca's house. In brief chapters, four characters comment on the unfolding drama: Chester, who truly believes in Francesca's powers and feels grateful to serve as her bodyguard and protector; Sid, who is by turns admiring and resentful of her friend, and ultimately trades on their friendship for cash; Anne, Francesca's mother, a divorced paleobotanist whose traveling allows others to step in and take advantage of the growing frenzy around her daughter; and Francesca herself, a stately third-person presence willing to do what is expected of her. The conceit is snappy, and the narrative moves effortlessly, but the novel lacks a genuine sense of the spiritual lives of its characters. Instead of exploring the intricacies and ambiguities of religious faith and revelation, Hallowell builds her story on platitudinous sound bites.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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It's just enough confusion to annoy the reader and make the story drag.
Kevin Daine
Yet just when you're there, the last page of print, you walk away a bit confused, a bit mislead?
J. Bombardier
As to the plot and writing itself, I found the book very thought provoking and engaging.
Gen of North Coast Gardening

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on April 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The Annunciation is an intriguing book, a tale of the universal search for meaning and spirituality in a materialistic world. Before starting, I expected the plot to be somewhat farfetched, but having worked with young teens for a long time, I can see that something like this could happen. Each of the major characters lacks something important in his/her life, and it takes a tragedy for them each to learn that their resolutions lie not in miracles but in themselves and in each other. The truth of the central mystery remains hidden till the novel's end, and even then, not all questions are answered or problems solved. Thought provoking and skillfully crafted.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Fischbach on January 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book was not what I expected but was wonderful nevertheless.. Francesca Dunn is a 14 year old girl on the cusp of becoming a woman but still very much a child, her parents have recently divorced and she feels abandoned by her previously doting father whose dream it was for Francesca to be a famous celloist.. She begins to realize she is not the prodigy her father had hoped for, at about the same time as a homeless man at the soup kitchen where she works announces that she is the virgin mother.. a frenzy of adulation ensues.. making Francesca feel special once again and her mother doubt her daughters sanity.. told in the alternating pov's of Anne the mother, Francesca, her bestfriend Sid and the homeless man Chester.. Excellent I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. N Sandell on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
This story is about a fourteen year old girl struggling with who she is, what's going on in the world around her and how she fits in to the whole mess. It is about the very human desire to believe in a higher power, something perfect. I really felt that this young girl could be the Virgin Mary in the beginning and middle parts of the book. I was filled with anticipation. All of that sort of unraveled towards the end, but this was still a very enjoyable read. I felt the writing was pitch perfect and I liked that it was told from the point of view of four different narrators as they each bring something new to the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. It is the first novel from a new and exciting author. Her insights into the essence of the mind a teenage girl and the mania that is caused when her life is turned upside down by the assertion that she is a miraculous reembodiment of the virgin Mary are intriguing. At once one feels the out-of-control external aspects of Francesca's situation and the interior issues of identity that we all feel as humans - particularly teenage humans. I strongly recommend this book to young and old and look forward to more from this new writer.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm a literature student and read so much for school that I can be picky when it comes to books for enjoyment. I thought this was a great novel. The characters were engaging and the plot kept me reading. I just had to finish it in one sitting! I had no problems with the multiple narrators and it added much more depth to the book. The writing flowed and the story had great character development. I highly recommend and definitely plan on reading it again.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Hendry VINE VOICE on April 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn is a story about people in search of miracles, people who need a change in their lives. Francesca Dunn is a rather ordinary 8th grader, with divorced parents, and perhaps some sort of eating disorder. She works at a local diner serving food to the homeless and one of the men there--a kind man, but mentally unstable--believes that she is the Virgin Mary returned to earth. He is convinced she has healed several of those around him and his beliefs start what becomes Francesca's cult following. Many people attach on to Francesca in search of their own miracles--a financial turnaround, spiritual awakening, something. Francesca's presence is merely a catalyst, not a "miracle". The story here is interesting, but frankly I think it lacked a certain extra something to make it really special. It's a good quick read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kristin on July 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Some say that this book is hard to read because of the different characters telling the story, however, there are only four narrators telling the story which I thought made the book more interesting to read.

The Annunciation of Francescia Dunn tells the story of a 14 yr old who suddenly finds people are worshiping her. Throughout the book you feel for her, and you feel for her mother and the people around her. The book keeps you hoping that she really is the virgin mother, with each chapter you wait to see what new developments take place. Not until the very last chapter does the full picture come together.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jill Elaine Hughes on August 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Not the most remarkable book I've read recently, but an impressive debut novel with unusual characters and a theme (i.e., what is God? Is God mental illness?) that I found very appealing. Book seems to assert that what our society labels mental illness is what past societies would have labeled mysticism or sainthood. A nice light summer read that still makes you think.
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