Heretics. Zealots and inquisitors. Uppity women and girls in the 13th century. Recipe for disaster? Oh boy, yes indeedy.
Dolssa is a young woman whose relationship with Jesus is so intense, he has become real to her. She can see him, sense him, feel him close to her. She is a mystic, and not one sanctioned by the church. She speaks his message to others and quickly lands in trouble with the Church, most particularly with Friar Lucien, an angry and toxic being who believes the only way to end her corrosive influence is to kill her. She and her mother are sentenced to burn at the stake.
Meanwhile, Botille and her sisters Plazensa and Sazia have finally landed in a town that seems to accept them and their drunk father figure. They run the tavern, tell fortunes and do a little matchmaking. They find ways to help out here and there, and they seem to have found a home after many years of instability.
Then these lives intersect. And really, a happy ending is never all that likely, although there are moments of hope even at the very end. It’s clear that life for most strong women during the Middle Ages was not easy, because having an opinion or making your own life choices really didn’t fit into the plan the men in charge had for them. It’s not a quick read, but it’s worth the time it will take you. There are some really wonderful historical notes at the end of the book which explain the times more fully and provide more resources for anyone interested in learning more.
(As noted in the comments, this book was named a Michael L. Printz for Excellence in Young Adult Literature Honor book. The award winner was another favorite, March, Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.)
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry