Release Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Literary Fiction | Women’s Lit
Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.
Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.
Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.
I have so much trouble with peace. It scares me. It feels too much like death.
Life will always be a mystery. Whatever you think you own can be taken from you in an instant and-even more confounding-all the things you once thought were lost can come rushing back.
Sigh! Is it me or does anybody else get feel-good vibes after reading a solid women’s lit novel? THE CANTERBURY SISTERS by Kim Wright sure left me feeling satisfied the same way one might feel after consuming their favorite treat (mine would be flaky, sugary, carby, pastries). I connected with the novel, and the women in the story, in different ways and varying degrees. The best way I can describe THE CANTERBURY SISTERS is every woman’s story, and I’m sure that should you decide to read this, that you will find yourselves, or pieces of yourselves, embedded in the women in this novel.
The story starts with Che Millan, a woman in her late 40’s, successful, independent, stable. The anti-thesis of her recently departed mother, Diana, who found God again towards the end of her life. It’s this almost fanatic reconciliation with her religion that had Diana pressing her daughter to bring her ashes to Canterbury Cathedral and be laid to rest in a purportedly, miraculous church. Che was hesitant at first, then she got a Dear Jane letter from her boyfriend of several years, stating that he met someone new. This was what unraveled Che and thus started her pilgrimage to Canterbury. When Che got there, she found herself in the company of women who are looking for some sort of miracle to happen in their lives as they go in this once in a lifetime trip to Chaucer’s Canterbury.
Following the tradition of the original pilgrims, the women were asked to tell a story, preferably theirs, as they walk the 60 mile trek going to the Cathedral. I loved all the women’s stories; they were fun, honest, revealing, and a lesson in itself. Jeanne is a widow whose husband died of a drug deal gone wrong in South America. Her daughter, Becca, is a senior in high school, naïve and innocent to the joys and sorrows of love but very much excited to know its ebbs and tides. Angelique is a reality housewife who’s live unraveled in front of national television because of her husband’s shenanigans.
Then there’s Claire, very polished, super MILF, very confident, and very insecure of her second husband’s ex-wife who apparently was a dynamite in bed. This led her marriage to crumble and overcompensating in some ways. Steffi, who told her story in third person, and though her story might feel “common” and perceived as shallow (eating disorder), it’s one of the cruelest and most disturbing of the tales for me.
A few shared fairy tales with the intent of being metaphorical. My favorite was Silvia’s. She met her perfect mate early on, lived the ideal life, built the white-picket-fenced dream. Then it was shattered when her husband fell for another woman and Silvia was left to pick up the pieces of their broken life. Years later, Silvia found a new man, having a second shot at love. Then Sivlia’s ex-husband’s current wife contracted Alzheimer’s then Silvia’s current husband was diagnosed with it too. Later on, Silvia’s current husband got it too and they ended up living together in a pseudo-hospice/home.
What held me back in giving THE CANTERBURY SISTERS 5 cauldrons is Che skipping telling her tale. Sure, we know her story because she’s narrating the novel. I guess I was looking for some sort of confession, or a declaration of sorts, share with the group the real reason why she went on this pilgrimage and the kind of miracle or absolution she was after.
I had a great time with THE CANTERBURY SISTERS. Kwright wrote a story that’s for women, by a woman, if that makes sense. All the tales shared were far from The Dream, it’s nothing like HEA, but its powerful and packed quite the punch. I found myself relishing the tales, imbibing the words, and internalizing these women’s reflections because it really resonated with me. I don’t know why I stopped reading women’s fiction, after THE CANTERBURY SISTERS, I’m sure I’ll be reading more of the genre moving forward.