vigil-shadowReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Ana’s happy childhood in El Salvador comes to an end when her family and many of the villagers lose their lives in a brutal massacre. Along with the other children who lived through the war raid, Ana is placed in an orphanage run by nuns and priests. One of the nuns, Sister Josepha, has a profound impact on Ana. The two become great companions and Ana decides that one day she would like to return to the United States with Sister Josepha and devote herself to God.

It is not long before the guards attack the orphanage. Ana and Sister Josepha flee, barely escaping with their lives. With Sister Josepha’s help, Ana is able to enter the United States.

After graduating high school, Ana excitedly steps into the role of a novitiate. As she is preparing to take her first temporary vows, Mother Superior offers her an opportunity to experience life outside of the convent as a nanny for an affluent family. For the Trellis family, Ana becomes much more than their children’s nanny: she is friend, confidant, and beloved.

Cecilia Samartin glides between the past and the present, with Ana narrating the past. Eventually past and present meet, and Ana herself provides the novel’s conclusion. Unlike an unreliable narrator, Ana is fair in her assessment of the action in the story. Even when describing those who could be considered the “villains”, Ana is forgiving and compassionate to their plights.

Vigil is one simple woman’s extraordinary journey of surviving death and discovering healing through faith in God, family, and love. Samartin, who is professionally trained as a psychotherapist, has expertly weaved the best and worst qualities of human nature into her characters. Samartin draws from her extensive knowledge of relationships to create the intricate bonds that form between Ana and the entire Trellis family, including the long-time housekeeper, Millie. She explores the power of forgiveness and redemption, and shows that even joy can be born from the most tragic of circumstances.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

This book was provided free of any obligation by Washington Square Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.