Lady of the Seven Suns: A Novel of the Woman Saint Francis Called Brother

Written by Tinney Sue Heath
Review by Xina Marie Uhl

St. Francis of Assisi, famous for his devotion to poverty and his sermon to the birds, remains a figure of enduring interest, as does his lesser-known companion, St. Clare. They are known as Francesco and Chiara in this novel, which revolves around protagonist Giacoma, a rich and privileged Roman wife and mother who is soon beset by tragedy.

Giacoma’s tragedies bind her in friendship to Francesco as she works to assist him in founding his order, while at the same time navigating the responsibilities and expectations of her noble background. Through Giacoma’s eyes, readers experience Francesco’s growing piety and desire to relinquish worldly pleasures and embrace poverty to a worrisome and shocking degree.

It is not easy to write about characters’ profound religious faith with veracity and sympathy when it differs so starkly from the mores of modern society, but Heath has accomplished that and more with this tale. Her historical research immerses the reader into medieval Italy to such an extent that one can smell the rosemary, taste the communion wine, and hear the poor begging for alms.

Written from the first-person point of view, Giacoma provides a sensitive portrayal of the age and of both saints and sinners.