Mirabilis tells a convincing story of how a flawed and downtrodden woman transformed herself into a saint. In late 14th century France, Bonne — surnamed variously Tardieu (God’s Bastard), LaMère, and Mirabilis — struggles to survive. Born to a woman who was miraculously elevated above the congregation during mass, Bonne lives amongst townsfolk who seem uncertain whether to hate or revere her. Reverence eventually beats out hate, largely because of Bonne’s own actions. Engaged as a wet nurse by the wealthy and mysterious widow Radegonde, Bonne expands her clientele when the English besiege her town. She suckles many hungry townsfolk and, when a statue resembling her appears in the church on the night the English withdraw, she becomes a woman of influence.
This unusual tale swings between the earthy and the touching. It incorporates magic and mysticism, religious fervor and superstition. In the latter half of the book, I felt these elements submerged the storyline and the motivations of the characters. The personalities of Bonne’s friends remain beneath the surface, but the author succeeds in creating a lifelike protagonist. She also excels in her depiction of medieval times. Her details illuminate how precarious life must have been for penurious, besieged people in this era.