There are usually two types of stories about nuns: cheerful tales of wimpled women, slightly clueless and out of touch, trying to deal with the modern world; or harsh Magdalene laundry types, burying babies in the back garden and berating terrified teenage mothers. Small Miracles is the former of these. And thank goodness for that.
Small Miracles is a nice book. It is a soothing balm for these troubled times, a patch of cheer away from real life. Set in the fictional university town of Fairbridge, Saint Philomena’s convent used to run a secondary school but the school has been taken over and only three nuns remain. Sister Margaret, the new Superior, is a lovely caring nun but is denial about the depth of her grief for previous Superior Sister Helen, and has no clear ideas about how to manage the convent and the appalling state of its finances. Her fellow nuns, Sister Bridget a madcap enthusiastic cooking whirlwind, and Sister Cecilia, a gloomy historian who spends a lot of time researching the life of the convent’s founder in the hope of making him a Saint, are dedicated to the convent but do little except drive Sister Margaret nuts.
The story is about how the nuns and the small community of people they know and work alongside in Fairbridge, and how a series of small miracles can change all their fortunes. It is a pleasant read full of hope and faith and features a lot of muttering asides to God, which is how I often imagine someone who is married to the Lord would manage the relationship. There is a strong supporting cast, a surprising Lottery win storyline, a pilgrimage and a love story within, and this all comes together in a way that you could call pre-ordained.
If you’re in need of cheer, I recommend it. It’s modern (well, the 1990s, is that still modern?) but otherwise very much in the style of AJ Pearce’s Dear Mrs Bird series, a jolly light-spirited romp. It has something to offer about the place of faith in the modern world, about community and the role of religious orders, and how we can all look to be there for one another in different ways.
Small Miracles is published on 4 August 2022 from Penguin Books from all good bookshops. Thanks to Netgalley for the advance reading copy.