|St. Margaret of Castello|
The Woman in the Cloak is a novelization of an actual historical figure, St. Margaret of Castelo. She was born a blind, hunchbacked dwarf with a withered leg. Despite these infirmities, and the rejection by her parents, she never feels cursed by God. Rather, she spends most of her relatively short life helping the poor of the small city of Castello. She lives with the beggars and the working poor, offering her help as a midwife, a free nanny and someone who is willing to go beg for food for the destitute.
Margaret joins an order of Nuns, but they are not very serious about their vows and she is soon expelled as a troublemaker. So, she joins the Order of Penance of St. Dominic, a mostly male Order. There, she returns to her work on the streets. Eventually, her health fails her and she dies of a hacking, bloody cough.
Up to this point, I found this story interesting and moving - here's a lady with the deck stacked against her in so many ways but she still finds a way to help others and give her life great purpose. However, the book veers into a part of Catholic theology that I am very uncomfortable with (probably due to a lack of proper understanding on my part) which is the act of praying to saints for healing. Margaret's bones become a sort of holy icon - pray to it or touch it and you'll be healed.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting read. I'll knock down the grade a bit for stilted conversation. The change in spelling in Margaret's name (Margheret to Margaret) without any explanation is also troubling.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Woman in the Cloak
Reviewed in February of 2005.