This is a richly embroidered yarn, made up of vividly captured, countless vinyettes as even the minor characters are shown to have a families, love affairs, and a history of their own. Over the course of a generation these individual strings come together in a vivid pattern, describing a society quite different than my own, a society where woman and girls are subject to the `breeding rights’ of men. Within the constraints of such a society, how can a young girl find her way? What plan can she come up with?We watch Sara from the moment her mother, Sally Rae Morgan, gives birth to her, only to die two weeks later. “Her eyes fluttered as though she’d heard him give her permission to leave, and Richard felt peace in his heart as Sally Rae’s spirit left her body and ascended to heaven.”Eleven years later, Bishop James tells this girl, with whom he is utterly obsessed: You know, Sara, that I need no one’s permission to marry you, not your father’s, not your mother’s, not even yours. In fact, with the authority vested in me, I could simply pronounce us man and wife.
There is never a dull moment throughout this epic story, nor is there a moralistic judgement on any of the characters. That is cleverly left to you, the reader. We see events from multiple points of view, moving in a seamless manner from one character to another in a way that not only advances the story, but also enriches our overall understanding of the nature of truth. With her seductively sensual descriptions, Christian Ashley builds upon details gleaned from research into the history of the time, but the power of her storytelling makes me suspect, each and every time I read her work, that she has visited these places and periods in a previous reincarnation.