Spiritual Courage in the Face of Toxic Harassment
The Twisted Circle tells the story of Sister Barbara, a nun who has just transferred to a convent in the northern jungle region of Guyana to teach school. Like the other nuns, she cares very much about the students. Her sudden promotion to the position of headmistress of the school infuriates the antagonist, Sister Francis, a white woman from the US, who believes she has more experience. Sister Francis has an inappropriately close relationship with the priest, Father Goodman. She thinks of him as more than a friend and is very possessive of him. I find the choice of names (Francis and Goodman) interesting, perhaps supporting the realization that people are not always as pious as they appear.
It’s helpful that we get to read the thoughts of both Sister Barbara and Sister Francis. The additional perspective allowed me to see Sister Francis as more than jealous and spiteful. Her journal entries reveal that the antagonist is overcome by paranoid delusions. This of course does not excuse her behavior as she attempts to destroy Barbara’s reputation. Reading as a white woman from the US, it was humbling and enlightening to experience Francis through the eyes of Barbara who is of East Indian and African heritage and often referred to, by herself and others, as Black.
Barbara struggles with self-doubt but shows admirable courage as she strives to do the work God has given her to do in a toxic environment of conflict, betrayal, and sexual harassment from men in religious and political authority. We feel how sad and frustrating it is that her colleague, Francis, craves the attention of a man at the expense of integrity. If Barbara and Frances could have been friends, they would have been able to support each other, but Francis’ twisted delusions prevented this. Meanwhile, the nuns in charge of the convent do not want to challenge the patriarchy or reveal its secrets.
Despite the lack of support from the church, Barbara remains faithful to God and finds comfort in the beauty of nature. When she stops to admire a velvet rose, she thinks, “God had to be a woman to create such beauty.” She also finds comfort in the forest spirits believed to live in the surrounding jungle. She shows spiritual maturity in her devotion to God while being open to the message she receives from the forest spirit to “walk in the light of the moon goddess, … feel the wind caress (her) weary body” … and “refresh (her) wounded spirit in the bosom of Mother Earth.”
While Sister Barbara, being a well-developed character, is not perfect, I greatly admire her strength and perseverance and enjoyed cheering her on as I read the book. I also admire the author Rosaline Bacchus, a former nun and a native of Guyana, for bringing us this story with compassion and courage. It is an enlightening story that nudges spiritual growth.
To see more about The Twisted Circle on Amazon, click HERE.
Visit the author’s blog HERE.
February 18, 2022 at 12:01 am
Beautiful review of a thought-provoking book, JoAnna! I love your observation that if Barbara and Frances could have been friends, they could have supported each other. The whole relationship made me think about how competition often ruins our ability to be faithful, helpful and productive!
February 18, 2022 at 12:43 pm
A powerful observation, Wynne! Competition between women, especially in the workplace, works against our ability to achieve our full potential as women.
February 18, 2022 at 9:58 pm
Amen. Well said, Rosaliene.
February 18, 2022 at 9:50 pm
Thank you, Wynne. I agree with your insight about competition. Cooperation is much better.
February 18, 2022 at 9:02 am
An excellent review. Rosaliene is a special human being
February 18, 2022 at 12:39 pm
Thank you for your kind praise, Derrick ❤
February 18, 2022 at 9:51 pm
Thank you, Derrick. She certainly is.
February 18, 2022 at 12:38 pm
JoAnna, thank you very much for this heartfelt and insightful five-star review of my novel. I love that you have highlighted Sister Barbara’s first contact with the Forest Spirit. Beautiful and unexpected connections occur during the writing process. This was one of them.
February 18, 2022 at 9:57 pm
You are very welcome, Rosaliene. I love that the forest spirit connection was not only beautiful, but unexpected. It was meant to be there. This leads me to think about how the beauty of God’s creation helps us get through hard times as with Barbara.
February 19, 2022 at 11:34 am
So true, JoAnna. My weekends gardening saved my sanity during the lockdown. I’m amazed at the way plants adapt to adverse conditions.
February 19, 2022 at 7:46 pm
Thanks for the review JoAnna. I ordered Rosaliene’s novel a few weeks ago and I am awaiting it’s arrival. Having had a strong connection in the past with the “Church”, I really look forward to this novel. I aslo really enjoy mnauy of Rosaliene’s posts.
February 19, 2022 at 8:25 pm
It was a pleasure to read and review The Twisted Circle. Rosaliene’s novels and posts always expand my awareness in good ways even when they are not comfortable. Thanks for visiting, Bruce. Good to meet you.
February 20, 2022 at 12:09 pm
So glad to know that, JoAnna. The realities of our lives are rarely comfortable.
February 20, 2022 at 12:08 pm
Bruce, thank you very much for your kind words ❤ I hope that you can connect in some way with The Twisted Circle.
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February 20, 2022 at 3:01 am
An outstanding review. You must be very happy with what you have written. It is clearly of a very high standard.
February 20, 2022 at 8:45 pm
Thank you, very much. I took some time on this as greatly I appreciate the author and her work.
February 21, 2022 at 12:41 pm
Thanks very much for reading, John 🙂
February 21, 2022 at 7:49 am
Pain is universal. How we deal with it is personal. Thankfully, love is much stronger.
February 21, 2022 at 9:46 pm
February 22, 2022 at 12:07 pm
I totally agree!
February 27, 2022 at 10:30 am
I loved “The Twisted Circle” and it’s many commentaries on life, love and the Catholic Church. It’s amazing how Rose has captured the hypocrisies of the teachings of the church vs. what is actual in practice.
February 27, 2022 at 9:51 pm
She did an excellent job of revealing the hypocrisies and how the abuse affected her character while maintaining her integrity.
February 28, 2022 at 6:53 am
Totally agree, JoAnna. 🙏🤓