Villeneuve, France, Anno Domini 1372. The village is under siege and people are starving when Bonne Mirabilis, wet nurse to the wealthiest and most enigmatic woman in town, realizes that she alone has the bounty with which to feed the hungry---and not by convincing her patroness to open her warehouses.
But it's a defiant act of generosity: When she was twelve years old, her sainted mother, the two priests suspected of being her father, and all the village women who believed Bonne's conception had been immaculate were locked into the church and set afire.
With a masterful sense of history and the visceral spirit of The Decameron, newcomer Susann Cokal combines the outrageous and the wondrous into the story of Bonne, a woman born "God's bastard," on her way to sainthood with the troop of ascetics, mystics, lovers, and jesters who keep her milk flowing.
Mirabilis is a remarkable and confident debut---an endlessly surprising tale about appetite and miracle, all four humors in abundance, and human ecstasy of every sort---a novel that carries the reader into that sweet rare air between the ridiculous and the sublime.
August 15, Anno Domini 1349--this is Villeneuve's desperate time, and its time of miracles. In the heart of the city, in the church of Saint-Porchaire, a virgin stands on the edge of a labyrinth. She is fifteen and her parents' every treasure, the only child of theirs who lived. And she is good.
Stone walls and a lead roof cup this girl's body in coolness, blow it full of incense, kiss it with the petals of dying flowers. The virgin barely notices. She is listening to the music of a bell; her father made three for the tower and she is called after one of them. In its peals she hears her name--Blanche. Blanche.
Blanche is full of hope. For though these two summers past the townsfolk have been dying a strange Black Death, her own limbs are strong, her skin is unbroken, and she is prepared for Communion. The streets may be paved with corpses, but her small sins have been confessed and she is here, in the church to which her mother dedicates both alms and prayers. ...
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