Monday, February 18, 2013

Miserere by Caren J. Werlinger

Publisher:        Corgyn Publishing                                         

Writing about an excellent book is always difficult.  Finding the right words to convey to others  why it is so outstanding so that they will want to read it is a challenge.  Capturing the essence of a book without giving away the story is a tricky balancing act.  It would be easier to say “Mystery ….. Paranormal …..Love ….. History…..Buy it,” but that doesn’t seem to do the book justice.  Miserere definitely deserves to have justice done to it.

Caren Werlinger has constructed two parallel stories connected through time by family ties and the intolerance that people can practice towards each other.  Caitriona Ni Faolain and her sister are sold to an English nobleman in Ireland so that their destitute father can obtain five more acres of land to farm and support the family during the Great Famine.  They are sent to pre-Civil War Virginia to work on the nobleman’s estate as what amounted to white slaves.  There they make friends with the black slaves and deal with the events leading up to the war.  Eventually, Caitriona and some of the slaves are forced to flee and end up in West Virginia, where tragedy is waiting for them.

One hundred years later Connemara Faolain Mitchell arrives in West Virginia with her mother and brother.  Her father is MIA in Vietnam and they have returned to her mother’s family home to wait for further news of him.  Conn experiences visitations from her ancestor Caitriona’s ghost and learns that there is a curse on her family that only she can lift.  Meanwhile, she and her mother are not making friends with some members of the community because of their insistence on treating Negroes and other outcasts as their equals.  As Conn maneuvers through the events of both the past and the present, it becomes increasingly clear why she is the chosen one.  It’s also apparent that events and emotions separated by a hundred years are not only similar, but connected.

Miserere is an amazing book.  It moves easily between episodes from the different time periods, capturing the feelings and complexities of each era.  It addresses instances from US history that are often forgotten or that are fading from memory and makes them feel alive and in the moment.  Intolerance, ignorance and the tragic consequences of war are not unique to one period, which proves the point that history has an unfortunate habit of repeating itself.  However, it also speaks to how the chain can be broken by the actions of a few good, and determined, people.

One note to lesbian readers, this is not your typical lesbian novel.  Those who think books must contain scenes of lovers and the exclamations of feelings won’t find those here.  There are relationships, but they are gentle whispers in a story that ultimately proclaims the right of people to be different whether the differences are cultural, racial, gender related or in sexual orientation.  The book weaves an essence around the reader that draws you in and is compelling in the need to consume the story.  Connemara Faolain Mitchell may be one of the most remarkable characters created in literature period, regardless of the genre.

So what are the words to use to convince someone to try this book.  Buy it… it…..absorb it….marvel in it.  Hopefully, that does justice to the book.


  1. Not a romance with heavy breathing? I am going to have to read this. I am so tired of every lesbian book being a panting romance, I am going to have to bump this to the top of the list.

    1. I think you'll be glad if you do. It really is a terrific book.