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The Sacrament

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  250 ratings  ·  61 reviews
The haunting, vivid story of a nun whose past returns to her in unexpected ways, all while investigating a mysterious death and a series of harrowing abuse claims

A young nun is sent by the Vatican to investigate allegations of misconduct at a Catholic school in Iceland. During her time there, on a gray winter’s day, a young student at the school watches the school’s
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by Ecco
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Taylor Iachini Unfortunately there are no definite ages given during the novel. There is a small section where the main character is a child/teen, then jumps to…moreUnfortunately there are no definite ages given during the novel. There is a small section where the main character is a child/teen, then jumps to where she is around 20 or so (college age), then to perhaps a little older (maybe 30?) when she actually conducts the investigation, and finally to her "Golden Years". (less)

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sophisticated novel told from the perspective of an elderly nun trying her best to enjoy her golden years tending to her roses and beloved dog. Her past comes back with a vengeance when she is required to return to Iceland to investigate events from her youth that have resurfaced but have never been forgotten. The unreliability of memory, youthful incompetence, first love, the abuse of power, and the marks on the heart that “sins” and sin leave are deftly and deeply explored. This is my first ...more
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I love mysteries that deal with different places. Here, we are transported to Iceland. A French Catholic sister is sent to Iceland to investigate a charge of abuse against two school boys. Why does the Catholic Church send a nun, you ask. Supposedly because she speaks Icelandic. But even she susses out the truth - they don’t want her to discover the truth and are expecting her to fail.

We hear from Sister Johanna Marie both at the time of her investigation and some 20 years later, when she is
Dec 01, 2019 rated it liked it
This story takes place in both Paris and Iceland in dueling time frames. The main character Sister Johanna grew up as Pauline before she became a nun. As a teenager, she found that unlike her friends, she never was interested in the opposite sex. Then when she boarded at college in Paris, she became intensely attracted to her Icelandic roommate, Halla. As time went by, they worked on learning each other's language, but Pauline was a bit more serious about learning Icelandic. Matters took a ...more
Diane S ☔
Dec 09, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 Dark and bleak, is this story of a young woman who struggles with a sexual orientation condemned by the Catholic Church. Going back and forth in time and alternating between Paris and Iceland, the story takes the reader inside the abuse accusations in the church. A nun herself now, she is tasked with the responsibility of investigating the abuse accusations arising out of a boys Catholic school in Iceland and their priest. Silence, a most potent motif is a result of sins kept hidden, of boys ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received a free e-copy of The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson from NetGalley for my honest review.

Sister Johann is asked to travel to Iceland and investigate an alleged sexual crime between a priest and some young boys.

After a very thorough investigation, Sister knows he is guilty. The problem is that none of the children or their parents are willing to have it documented. The priest knows this, of course, and provokes her.

An well written and intriguing read.
Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)
I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

DNF at 35%

Well, here we are. I thought this would have a lot of promise -- an Icelandic Catholic nun investigating abuse charges in the Church in Iceland??? Sounds like an awesome book. But, it didn't work for me at all.

My biggest complaint was how distant I felt from the story. It doesn't use quotation marks, so it was hard to read for me. That meant I was more focused on trying to see where the sentences started and stopped, and
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss
A gripping, emotive literary accomplishment. Most highly recommended. Complete review to be posted closer to the publication date of 12/3/2019.
Taylor Iachini
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received a free eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

First things first: I ABSOLUTELY did the silly thing where I saw the cover of this book and assumed it to be horror or even suspense. However! After realizing my mistake, I quickly started enjoying this book for the lovely piece of literature that it is!

This story is told through the eyes of Sister Johanna Marie, an elderly nun who is called back to Iceland after years to further discuss a case that she looked into
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved the setting of this book and the main character. It was a good solid Nordic mystery . I will read more by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book
Intense Nordic drama!

A boy locked in a school's broom closet views something strange out of the window.
A Catholic nun whose locked away her own secrets, including the reasons for her not quite belonging despite her best efforts. Her sense of humor, her attachment to her dog George Harrison and her rose garden don't quite still her heart. The persuasive church hierarchy who don't want to know. Cardinal Raffin, a sly holder of Sister Joanna Marie's life from before. He thinks that sending a nun
Nov 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sister Johanna Marie is one of the most reluctant investigators I’ve ever read about. She’s only looking into accusations of abuse at a Reykjavík Catholic school for two reasons. First, she’s one of the few people in the bishop and the cardinal in charge know who speaks Icelandic. Second, the cardinal who put her on the case thinks he has dirt on Johanna and can push her to make the “right” report when she’s done. But surprising things happen in The Sacrament, by Olaf Olafsson. Maybe this time, ...more
Sep 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I received a copy of this book from the goodreads giveaways. I would give it a 3.5. This book "The Sacrament goes back and forth between different time eras. In the 80s when she has to go to Iceland to investigate why a priest died falling from a tower. It is rumored he molested some young boys Johanna cannot get the parents of the boys to interview and say what happened. 20 years later in present day. she is brought back to Iceland to talk to one of the boys who is 20 years older now. the books ...more
***I received a free advanced copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review***
Alternating primarily between present day and the 1980s, The Sacrament follows Sister Johanna Marie as she recalls her time investigating allegations against the Church at an Icelandic primary school in the 1980s. When the school's Headmaster, Father August Frans, falls to his death from the church bell tower during the investigation, his death is ruled a suicide. But decades later, new information from an
Doris Vandruff
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sister Johann has been called to Iceland to investigate a crime. It is a crime of alleged sexual misconduct between a priest and some of the young boys.
She is chosen because when she was young she had a friend that was from Iceland and taught her the language.
After a thorough investigation Sister Johann knows he is guilty. However, none of the children or their parents will go with her to have it documented officially.
What's more the old priest knows her dilemma and taunts her.
This is a story
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was captivating. As a Catholic, I’ve always questioned certain things and this book simply fueled that fire. I simply adored it.
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
The Sacrament is the story of Sister Johanna Marie, a nun who is sent to Iceland to investigate a possible sexual abuse charge against the Church. As she travels there, she recalls her time at school as well as her early years in the Church.

This book is a difficult one to review. On one hand, there was a lot that I appreciated. The prose is lovely and thoughtful, the plot is intriguing, and I'm always a sucker for a good story set in Iceland. However, there was also a lot that I struggled with
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
In his new novel The Sacrament, Olaf Olafsson grabs his readers’ attention by briefly telling how a young boy comes to be locked in an Icelandic Catholic school broom closet. Standing on an overturned bucket to peer out the window, he imagines he is seeing Batman take flight from the church tower to save him. Instead, the black-clad figure plummets to the ground.

Set in France and Iceland, The Sacrament shifts between three time periods all focusing on the central character whose birth name was
Nov 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Though admittedly, The Sacrament at times can be a bit of a confusing read, it is well worth your time and effort!!

The book is mostly told through the POV of Sister Johanna Marie and at times through a narrator. There are three distinct time periods covered: First, when young teenager Pauline Reyer comes to realize that she is different from most people she knows and tells her parents she has decided she wants to study theology. The reader "goes" with her to university and is privy to some of
Nov 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley

Pauline's interior life plays out over many years in this new novel by Olaf Olafsson. While studying at the Sorbonne and living in a Catholic hostel, Pauline's path crosses with a priest who finds ways to intimidate and humiliate the young student. She follows his command and moves to another hostel, losing a meaningful friendship with an Icelandic student. These events changed Pauline's life.

Years later, when the student, who is now a nun living in
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have been thinking of The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson since i finished it two days ago and I fear that I may not be able to do it justice with my review. This was a wonderful book. I was at first slightly confused as the story is told in flashback form but this was the perfect format for this very moving story.
Sister Johanna must travel into her past to bring peace to her present. She starts a journey to Iceland to meet someone from her past. She is not sure why this person will speak only to
Jennifer Shanahan
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arc-giveaways
WOW. Once I started this book I could NOT put it down. Although it was was incredibly in tense and detailed, it was was well worth reading. It is narrated in the first person by Pauline, first as a young girl growing up and then Pauline turned Sister Johanna, a nun in the Catholic church. The chapters skip back in for the between the current day, the past when Pauline was in college and the recent past where Sister Johanna was investigating a sex abuse charge against a priest at a Catholic ...more
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a most interesting read, but sometimes I felt so lost and confused due to the storyline. I would get lost between Sister Johanna remembering her younger years as she was thinking of becoming a nun, in the 1980’s and then we would jump to the 2000’s and her trip to Iceland. I was completely confused on the broom closet, who was in it, and when did it happen. In the end though, it was all tidied up with a bow.
The story is told in first person by Sister Johanna, on one page, we would
Chad Guarino
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The Sacrament is a meditation on abuse of power, faith, regret, and memory. While the story is at times intriguing, the book is marred by troublesome and confusing time shifts.

The main character (a nun) is called back to the scene of an investigation of abuse she conducted in Iceland from twenty years prior that ended in a suicide, which churns up memories from both that time period and her past life during her schooling. Her memories of her school days and her relationship with her Icelandic
Ericka Seidemann
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
A quiet, intriguing story set in Reykjavik, The Sacrament is more about the catharsis of its protagonist than the investigation of sexual abuse allegations.

The story follows Sister Johanna as she returns to Iceland to probe allegations reported in an anonymous letter of sexual abuse at the Catholic school. Sister Johanna is chosen to go to Reykjavik because she speaks Icelandic. We follow her from her time when she was just Pauline, a young college student in Paris, to her mysterious,
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I often think of a mystery as a form of verbal patchwork quilt, with scraps of clues and characters and plot forming the patterns -- which can vary from the randomness of a silk-and-velvet crazy quilt to the structure of the calico wedding-ring template.

One of the delightful surprises of quilting is the beauty that can result in from re-combining the simplest of materials. It was just so in the case of Cold Fear by Olaf Olafsson. A nun's memories from two earlier periods of her life, pieced
Dec 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I consider Olaf Olafsson an excellent writer and have loved all of his previous books, yet this novel--the story of a nun who is sent from France to Iceland to check out an accusation of abuse by the headmaster of the church school was hard for me. It is told in the first person by the nun, Sister Johanna, in 3 time frames: as a girl before she takes her vows, when she is a young nun, and when she is elderly. I could not relate to this woman who believes in a real forgiving and loving God while ...more
Kathleen Gray
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sister Joanna has been called up from her quiet retirement at a convent in France and sent back to Iceland where she conducted an investigation at the request of the Vatican 30 years before. This is a subtle novel that winds around the central mystery of her earlier investigation. Yes, you know a priest jumped from the bell tower of a church and yes you know a child saw it from the closet he had been locked in but how does it all relate. This spreads over three time frames- Sister Joanna's early ...more
Aug 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
A young nun is sent to Iceland to investigate the dark, malignant underbelly of the Catholic Church when an anonymous letter arrives with abuse accusations level at the priest in charge of the local school. So begins this wonderfully written, and haunting story which dwells inside this horrible secret that the church has tried to ignore for years.

Sister Johanna, now older but still conflicted with her own feelings, is sent back to Iceland to relive her first time there when, in the midst of
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Does everyone else find reading books by authors from other countries interesting? Interesting as in different, refreshing or thought provoking? This book was one of those for me. How these characters processed thoughts and their emotions seemed so different from how American characters may have acted/reacted, not especially what said but more what was held back. As for the plot, it is nice to be reminded that people with good intentions, fighting against wrongdoing, still occasionally question ...more
Michelle Richter
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The main character was interesting and the settings came alive, but the mystery and the revelations were a little quiet. I was somewhat surprised by the twist at the end, but it felt a little anticlimactic. I wanted to know more about Pauline/Johanna's friendship with Halla, and the resolution there was disappointing. I didn't understand why Raffin targeted Pauline, why he was so attuned to her feelings, why he followed her for so many years, why she played into it, and that really wasn't ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: please combine these editions 3 13 Jun 03, 2019 02:47PM  
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Olaf Olafsson was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1962. He studied physics as a Wien Scholar at Brandeis University. He is the author of three previous novels, The Journey Home, Absolution and Walking Into the Night, and a story collection, Valentines. His books have been published to critical acclaim in more than twenty languages. He is the recipient of the O. Henry Award and the Icelandic Literary ...more
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