Evanston Public Library's Reviews > The Visitation

The Visitation by Sue Reidy
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's review
Dec 04, 2009

Read in December, 2009

It’s 1966 and in the large, devoutly Catholic Flynn family, the two eldest girls, Theresa and Catherine, don’t spend their time playing with dolls or playing house. Even an exciting round of cops and robbers is not their cup of tea. No, the Flynn girls play a game called Martyrs and Suffering Virgins. They act out the lives and agonized deaths of their favorite saints: Teresa of Avila, Agatha, Joan, and Lucy among others, and they dream of a day when they, too, will join the ranks of the holy and blessed women. But a surprise appearance of the Virgin Mary in their scruffy backyard where she asks them to deliver a letter to the Pope on the importance of contraception throws a huge monkey wrench in their plans for sainthood. First of all, they wonder what the heck is contraception. Mary does not elaborate, nor does their overworked, continuously pregnant mom. Mrs. Flynn offers a vague answer about stopping babies and the standard you’re-too-young-to-understand speech. Of course, Mr. Flynn is not approachable—he’s strict, repressed, and likely to fly off the handle cuffing ears right and left if any of his children so much as look unfocused during the nightly family rosary session. So begins a coming-of-age story that relates the difficulties of trying to figure it all out yourself. Theresa and Catherine work together to find some answers, but part ways on others, especially when Catherine spends a few months wearing a miniature nun’s habit to prepare for her expected calling. Over the next few years, it’s not only contraception and sex that puzzle them; it’s the bigger questions of faith and suffering, family loyalty and independent thinking. Using the momentous Vatican II decisions and the 60s era of youth rebellion as a backdrop, Reidy’s telling of this warm and often funny story is adept and honest. (Barbara L., Reader’s Services)

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