Book Article

A Book You Have to Read

James Lee Burke's guest review -- The author of ''The Tin Roof Blowdown'' recommends Ron Hansen's ''Mariette in Ecstasy''

James Lee Burke's guest review

Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy (paperback) is the best ''mystery'' I have ever read, primarily because it's a metaphysical detective story, dealing with cloistered Roman Catholic nuns in whose midst a phenomenon suddenly occurs: One of the nuns experiences the stigmata, the bloody wounds of Christ, forming on her skin. However, this is not necessarily a story about religion or even about Catholic nuns. This seemingly supernatural event disrupts every aspect of life within the convent. But quickly the reader comes to learn that the convent represents the world, which rewards mediocrity and sycophancy and loathes and despises altruism and courage. If you read this book, I promise that you will never forget it. Hansen is one of the great stylists of our time, on a par with Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx. And if you like this book by Ron Hansen, you might also try his 1979 novel Desperadoes.—James Lee Burke

Originally posted Nov 09, 2007 Published in issue #964 Nov 16, 2007 Order article reprints