We Should Not Be Afraid of the Sky, by Emma Hooper

Of all the half-told, half-obscured women’s stories that come down to us from history and legend, some of the hardest to make into compelling fiction for modern readers are probably the lives of the saints — particularly those obscure “virgin saints” of the early Christian era who suffered martyrdom rather than submit to marriage and sex. In this novel, Emma Hooper takes the tale of Saint Quiteria, a Portuguese 2nd century martyr, and weaves it together with other traditions and saints’ tales, including one that says that Quiteria was one of a set of nonuplets, all beautiful young women who converted to Christianity and were martyred for their faith. The result is a rich, image-soaked novel that feels more like mythology or fantasy than historical fiction — appropriately, since saints’ tales are generally full of the kind of miracles and unlikely occurences that take us out of the realm of realistic fiction.

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