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Summary and book reviews of Mirabilis by Susann Cokal

Mirabilis

by Susann Cokal

Mirabilis by Susann Cokal X
Mirabilis by Susann Cokal
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2001, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2002, 400 pages

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Book Summary

A remarkable and confident debut---an endlessly surprising tale about appetite and miracle, all four humors in abundance, and human ecstasy of every sort.

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.

Assumption

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. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Introduction
From the Author

The stories and even written texts of the Middle Ages were meant to be group affairs - someone would read or recite, and others would listen; then all were free to discuss. So I am particularly glad that your group has chosen to read Mirabilis. I hope you like it....


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.

It's a defiant act of generositywhen she was twelve years old, her sainted mother, the two priests suspected of being her father...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Chicago Tribune
Mirabilis is a bounty of storytelling zest . . . .Cokal has written an absorbing medieval novel that is original and convincing. . . . Applause for Susann Cokal's daring debut.

The San Francisco Chronicle
…Susann Cokal's tale of miracles, magic and madness is a double-decker coup making the era seem real . . . and making it matter.

Publishers Weekly
Sprawling, spiritual and crudely sensual . . . .A visceral, absorbing account of medieval life from the perspective of its outsiders, Cokal's unsettling novel is rich with passions both religious and sexual - and with an awareness of the occasional fine line between the two.

Library Journal
This beautifully crafted story about miracles and belief will not soon be forgotten....One expects to stay up late to finish the latest John Sandford, but a book about medieval wet nurses with dwarfs and monks and exotic, sapphic witches? Yet readers will, for it is that compelling.

Kirkus Reviews
Strikingly original and thematically complex. Readers who like to be challenged will devour this - and wonder eagerly what this adventurous newcomer will do next.

The Columbia Tribune
. . . a rich stew of spirituality and sensuality that captures perfectly the din and chaos of a 14th century village. . . Bonne's human passions and sainted heart make her a thoroughly engrossing heroine.

Author Blurb John Vernon, author of Peter Doyle and The Book of Reasons
What a story! In this novel full of miracles, perhaps the greatest one of all is the levitated language that Susann Cokal conjures. Her sentences are alchemy weightless and sensual, chiseled and fluid, tame and wild.

Reader Reviews

Sherry Cogburn

The most interesting and creative book I have read in a long time. Exciting and unpredictable. I may have to read it again!!!!!

Ruth

Simply beautiful writing. A mysterious and captivating story that kept me reading until it was finished, and wishing that it kept going.

wanda

I love this book! It's dark and funny and moving and sexy and grotesque all at the same time. Whew!

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