Barbara Mujica, the author of Sister Teresa, takes the reader on a riveting ride. Mujica is not a stranger to penning award-winning work, a winner of the E.L. Doctorow International Fiction award and a regular contributor to the New York Times and Los Angeles Times. The tremendous caliber of Mujica’s writing style is evident in this historical novel’s prolific characters, robust scenery and a mesh of chronological facts. Given the substance of the material presented in Sister Teresa, one would think that Mujica spent a lifetime creating this masterpiece.
In a tiny shop in Rue Sainte Anne, Mujica found a tattered manuscript which appeared to be the words of someone who knew Saint Teresa of Avila. Mujica worked to interpret the vocabulary of the discovered manuscript that became the basis for Sister Teresa. Mujica’s proficiency in Spanish, as a professor of Spanish at Georgetown University, helped propel the translation of the manuscript.
The reader can’t help but accept an invitation to experience Teresa de Ahumada’s (later known as Sister Teresa) life. Born into prosperity, Teresa de Ahumada is sent away to a nunnery at a young age, compelled by her father’s determination to prevent scandalous talk about Teresa’s love interest with an unattached man. Youthful romance is swashed, and Teresa de Ahumada blossoms into Sister Teresa of Avila, a woman married to vows of chastity, poverty and spiritual fulfillment.
Intense moments are offered as life in Spain in the 1500s is not a pretty picture, with constant battles between the secular and the spiritual world. However, nothing can stop Sister Teresa of Avila’s determination to establish a new order of convents dedicated to a simple way of life but filled with riches of spiritual nourishment. The Spanish Inquisition can’t shatter Sister Teresa’s inner strength. She is willing to do anything for love of God, even risk her own life during a period in time when individuals are burned at the stake for proclaiming to have a personal relationship with God.
Alongside Sister Teresa of Avila is her most loyal servant and best friend, a former seamstress’s daughter. Sister Angelica offers a unique perspective, a different set of eyes and a strong persona that overcomes personal challenges, moments of insecurities and spiritual crises. Sister Angelica is portrayed as the person, besides God, who knows Sister Teresa of Avila most intimately.
Sister Teresa provides a tale of conviction. Be prepared to strap yourself in ofr a few grueling scenes as the life and times of Saint Teresa, along with her most ardent admirers or adversaries, take you on a journey of a “saint in the making.” I can’t help but feel that Sister Teresa’s life endeavor presents a life lesson that can be woven in modern life: “don’t give up, independent of inclement conditions.”