Michelle Kung
March 16, 2007 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Eschewing sacred sentiment for rich, gritty anecdotes, Sister Teresa, Bárbara Mujica’s well-researched novel, reimagines famed 16th-century mystic Teresa of Ávila as a vibrant and fully fleshed woman not above vanity, deceit, and a little pre-convent hanky-panky. If anything, the author errs on the side of emphasizing too many of the saint-to-be’s faults, particularly her narcissism. Far more sympathetic is the fictional narrator, Sister Angélica, Teresa’s girlhood friend-turned-lifelong confidante. Between matter-of-fact descriptions of a brutal rape by a lusty priest and torture during the Spanish Inquisition, Angélica’s story is the one that shines. B+

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