Author: Caren J. Werlinger
Published: September 2021 by Corgyn Publishing
Category: Contemporary, Historical, Fiction, Religion, Literary
Patricia Horrigan is the eldest daughter of a family determined to gain entry into the upper echelons of Rochester society as the 1950s give way to the turbulence of the 60s. Born of an Irish father and a French-Canadian mother, Pip inherited the stubborn pride and fierce determination of both.
In present time, Lauren Thackeray has managed to put her life back together—in a manner of speaking. She has her weaving, her home, her chosen family, and she has the monastery and the lasting friendship of the nuns there. The one thing she doesn’t have, she doesn’t want. She won’t open her heart again after she barely survived the last time.
I enjoyed In This Small Spot so much I jumped at the chance to read An Unlit Candle. Told in two alternating timelines, part sequel, part prequel, and woven together beautifully. I think this story would definitely benefit from being read after In This Small Spot.
We first meet Patricia (Pip) Horrigan in the late 1950s as she and brother accompany their parents to a ball at the Wasserman’s, where it pays to be seen. Mr Wasserman would play an ongoing role in Pip’s life.
The young Pip wanted more out of life than to be on the hunt for a husband, to the exasperation of her mother. Her father owned a flour mill and Pip’s ideas were to expand the business so they would make their own products rather than just selling the flour to other bakeries. On her way to a meeting one day Pip met Toni Andretti.
Just then, Pip’s eye was caught by a woman striding through the hotel lobby. It wasn’t just the flowing trousers and crisp white shirt she wore—the only woman not in a dress—it was the confidence of her movements, her complete ease despite the curious glances she was drawing, and it was also her short hairstyle that reminded Pip of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
In the present, around five years after the events that concluded In This Small Spot, Mother Theodora is approaching a milestone. Thoughts she had kept at the very back of her mind, not allowing herself to think about them, now seem impossible to stop. She’s plagued by self doubt and begins to question whether her work at St Bridget’s and the sacrifices she’d made had really been worthwhile.
I used to feel. I used to feel everything, deeply, passionately. Now I am empty, wooden. How do I get that back? Please, help me.
Also in the present, Lauren Thackeray has finally found a way to live in peace. She has a lovely home, her work making cloths and vestments for churches and her extended family and friends. And Episcopal priest, Gail Bauer, suffering from burn out, is also feeling uncertain about her vocation and beliefs.
An Unlit Candle is another incredible read from Caren Werlinger. She is an exceptional storyteller. This story focusses on three women, all from different walks of life but all suffering in some way and will become a lifeline for each other.
I enjoyed learning about Mother Theodora’s emotional and sometimes hard journey to where she is now. How, after a visit to a contemplative monastery with a friend, she felt the inexorable pull of the monastic life and the effect it had on her and her family. Emotions are conveyed with beautiful and heartfelt prose— love, doubt, reactions to change, sadness, grief, angst…
Another wonderfully written, multi-layered and captivating story, full of atmosphere and realistic and relatable characters that leave a strong impression. And the thread running through everything is St Bridget’s itself and how it impacts on everyone’s life. Both books are highly recommended.
I chose to read and review An Unlit Candle based on a copy kindly supplied by the author.
Bestselling author Caren Werlinger published her first award-winning novel, Looking Through Windows, in 2008. Since then, she has published fifteen more novels, winning several more awards. Influenced by a diverse array of authors, including Rumer Godden, J.R.R. Tolkein, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Willa Cather and the Brontë sisters, Caren writes literary fiction that features the struggles and joys of characters readers can identify with. Her stories cover a wide range of genres: historical fiction, contemporary drama, and fantasy, including the award-winning Dragonmage Saga, a fantasy trilogy set in ancient Ireland. Most recently, she created the magical setting of Little Sister Island (a place she and her readers wish were real) in When the Stars Sang and Face the Wind.
She lives in Virginia with her wife and their canine fur-children.