Blue Hen, Jun 2002, 25.95, 320 pp.
In Anno Domini 1349, the Black Death has plagued the beleaguered the villagers of Villeneuve, France for two years. As the morale sinks lower, a miracle occurs at the Saint-Porchaire Church to provide hope that God has not abandoned the faithful. At the first communion of a teenage girl, Blanche Mirabilis levitates above the stunned townsfolk. Nine months later, she gives birth that many villagers believe is an Immaculate Conception.
However, years later, the church burns the miracle girl at the stake for committing heresy. As a teen, that infant Bonne Mirabilis becomes a wet nurse, but with her heritage no one will hire her, treating her like a pariah.
Wealthy Radegonde Putemonnoie is pregnant with her deceased spouse's child. If she gives birth to the heir she inherits her late husband's fortune. Radegonde hires Bonne as her wet nurse. As the town is under English siege and food becomes scarce except in the home of Radegonde, Bonne allows the less fortunate townsfolk, who previously avoided her like a leper, to drink from her ever flowing breasts.
Mirabilis is a powerful medieval historical fiction that vividly brings to life the period as few books do. The story line flows deeply and graphically so that the audience tastes, feels, and smells the mid to late fifteenth century yet not all the descriptions are quite glowing and upbeat as is typical of novels depicting the period. However, the theme is not to turn Villeneuve into the Eerie, Indiana of fourteenth century France, but instead through a strong cast show how every body needs someone to care and cherish them. Susann Cokal presents a wild, wacky, but wonderful debut.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner