Any novel that can make you laugh hysterically and then cry on the same page is worth 5 stars in my book, not to mention that Sister North by Jim Kokoris has one of the best opening lines in any book Iíve ever read. But I wonít share that line here. You have to pick up and read this wonderful novel and see what I mean.
This moving, inspirational, funny, profound and quirky novel tells the story of a very broken man who seeks to be put back together in the most unusual of places, only to find that he held the key to his own healing all along. Sam Gamett is a Chicago lawyer, and not a very good one, who witnesses the shooting death of his sweet and innocent secretary by a bullet meant for him. His life is already a disaster, and now he is left emotionally crippled by his guilt.
As he descends deeper into an abyss of self-loathing and psychological bankruptcy, Sam catches a late-night call-in show featuring an enigmatic nun called Sister North. Suddenly, Sam becomes obsessed with the nun, even going so far as leaving town to seek her out in person, hoping she can give him the forgiveness and redemption he cannot find within his own soul.
Sam heads for the tiny, podunk town of Lake Eagleton, Wisconsin, to seek out the sister, and on the way he meets a wacky sidekick named Willie who also seeks redemption for his own secret sins. Once Sam and Willie arrive in Lake Eagleton, the real fun begins. They meet a town full of eccentric, if not downright crazy, folk all there for the same reason: to see the nun who can heal them of their wounds, inner and outer.
There is the hilarious old timer Patrick and his lovely wife, Lila, wanting to know if their missing son is still alive. There is Louis, the bizarre proprietor of the townís mail hotel, and the lovely but aloof Meg, who catches Samís eye and eventually his heart, as well as a cast of supporting characters who scream to be movie-bound (any producers reading this Ė buy the film rights quick!).
Ultimately, the story centers on Samís growing attachment to the mysterious Meg, who seems the most closely connected to the elusive Sister North. As Sam waits for the nun to appear, along with an increasingly impatient town full of victims waiting for healing, he comes to realize that this strange and bizarre place called Lake Eagleton is getting under his skin and into his heart. He also begins to suspect things may not be what they seem regarding Sister North.
When Sam and the others finally do meet the amazing Sister North, we almost donít even care. It is a bit anti-climactic, but only because we have come to know and adore these characters so much with or without her presence. And as for healing and redemption, seems there is plenty of that to go around in Lake Eagleton. But as Sam and the others discover, it is not at all where they imagined it to be.
This is a delightful and deep novel that will have you cracking up from the wacky dialogue and crazy situations these lost and broken people seem to constantly engage in, but it will also touch your heart and spirit in a deep place. It is about being broken and getting fixed, something we can all relate to at some time in our lives. And it is about the healing power of love and self-forgiveness, all wrapped up in a glorious package.
Kokoris is the author of The Rich Part of Life, an award-winning first novel, and his humor writing has appeared in many top-notch publications. If Sister North is any indication, Kokoris has a great future ahead of him as a top mainstream novelist, and a huge following growing behind him. Include me in. Sister North is one journey I am glad I took, and if the authorís next book is as wonderful, Iíll follow him anywhere.