When she turned sixteen, Menina Walker, heroine of "The Sisterhood," was given a holy medal and a "Chronicle" written in Latin that the nuns at the South American convent presented to her adoptive parents when they arrived to take her home as a little girl. Three years later, while working on her scholarship thesis on artist Tristan Mendoza (who may have personal connections to her legacy) and eager to escape her abusive ex-fiance, Menina travels to Spain where she is derailed by poor weather and perhaps fate. Seeking refuge in a convent, badly in need of repair, Menina decides to evaluate the artwork donated over centuries and see if any is valuable. Through her research, she learns that the convent was once the refuge of five young girls: Esperanza, Marisol, Sanchia, Pia and Isabella, each with an unique story during the time of the Spanish Inquisition (1550's) that will provide Menina with the answers she seeks.
The novel offers a history lesson as well, with the information that nuns not only helped shelter girls in trouble, but served as patrons of the arts, and also influenced the local political scene. It also examines the question: What would happen if someone unearthed evidence that the Virgin Mary wasn't exactly a virgin? The answer is what you'd expect, but it's still an interesting twist. Men, as a whole, do not come off particularly well here, religious and otherwise; with a rape, incest, murder, kidnapping, etc. every fifty pages or so, the drama sometimes becomes melodrama. By contrast, the female characters were appealing, and I wished there were more quiet moments in the novel where I could get to know them better. Also Menina and Becky seemed a little old-fashioned for college students in Y2K, but maybe it's a Southern thing. Overall, I enjoyed the book and its focus on female bonding.