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This book reminded me of James Patterson's "Maximum Ride" series about bird people, especially regarding the description of angel wings on humans, mixed with a small bit of Dan Brown's religious thrillers. The lady who chose this book usually chooses eclectic, artsy kind of books, often with a religious theme. Her other selections have included:
On a scale of 1 - 5
Sex - There was one scene so I couldn't rate it a zero but it was very minor, taking up less than a page at the beginning of the Second Sphere when Celestine saw Gabriella and an angel naked and entwined.
Religion - A large part of the book is set in a convent, there are several references to Vatican II and the author tosses out the idea of angelmorphism. However, I gave it a medium rating because even if you were in no way religious you could read and enjoy the book just as I can enjoy watching Spiderman even though I am in no way a superhero.
Gruesome - There are some mild scenes involving deteriorating wings, guns and stabbings but nothing that is stomach-turning.
Suspense - Especially at the end there were several questions that came up that made me wonder how it was all going to play out. Where is the lyre? Can they figure out the clues? Who has it now in a back and forth game? Which side will Evangeline choose? It wouldn't have kept me up at night, but it was quite engaging.
Morality - A nun lies by omission to another nun, all nuns keep a secret from one nun and a string of crimes by a so-called "angel" made this a middle of the road rating. None of us is perfect (not even clergy and religious) or, as "House" says, "Everyone lies." and the badness of the angel is explained early in the novel.
The story takes place across three generations of women. Gabriella - Angela - Evangeline Gabriella was an Angelologist from an early age and the work was passed down to her daughter and granddaughter. The book is divided into four parts. The first three are spheres and the fourth is "The Heavenly Choir" just as the angels are divided.
The first section is pleasant and draws you in to the easy narrative with teasings of suspense, mystery and curiosity.
Sphere Two is much different than the other sections. It's a good thing they didn't place this part first or they'd lose a lot of readers. It is the back story. It leads up to the first page "Prologue" dated 1943 that came before the First Sphere dated late 1999. The Second Sphere begins in the fall of 1939 and is like Angelology 101, or maybe 201. In any case, much of it is as boring as your most disliked college lecture - especially the parts in which the characters attend lectures. It is a huge information dump and I often found myself wondering how the author could stay awake while writing it.
Once back in the present (Third Sphere) the book moves along as quickly as a jogger through Central Park.
At some point it felt like an editor told Ms. Trussoni that she had to incorporate a love story so we got forced into believing in a spontaneous and strong connection between a Private Investigator and a Nun. She even used the word "irrevocably" which immediately made me recall Bella's contemplations on Edward (Twilight - of three things she was sure...she was completely and irrevocably in love with Edward Cullen). Not that Ms. Meyer has a monopoly on the word now, and maybe it was pure coincidence - who knows if Ms. Trussoni has even read the Meyer series, but as a Twilight fan it seemed like an offense.
And for me the rest of the book was a ping pong game of suspense and disappointment. I was extremely frustrated when the Angelologists are in Gabriella's apartment discussing the cards - they all seem so down and unwilling to believe they might have any clues before them, especially Vladmir and Bruno. These people who studied and waited so long for this moment don't seem to want to make it happen. Yet Verlaine, the outsider, figures it out. I was also disappointed when the plot thread that I finally accepted and started believing in, then got cut...causing me to feel at the end of the book like the time spent reading it was somewhat wasted.
Question: Do you believe in angels?
Angela believed that the Nephilistic immune system reacted negatively to human-made chemicals and pollutants. She believed that these unnatural elements worked to break down the cellular structures inherited from the Watchers, creating a form of deadly caner. Another theory she had was that the change in their diet over the past two hundred years has altered their body chemistry, thus affecting reproduction.
Question: Is this a veiled commentary on the rise of diseases like cancer and autism in the modern world?
Then, God desired to populate the dominions of Japheth, revivifying the Holy Spirit upon the fallow earth. In their first appearances, these beings often died in infancy. With time, they learned to care for the weak children, nursing them to their third year before allowing them to join with the other, stronger children. If they survived into adulthood, they grew to be four heads shorter than their parents. (p. 193 large text edition)
Question: Does this support or contradict the ideas discussed in the previous question.
Question: Evangeline wished to understand the work her parents had performed and yet she longed for the luxury of ignorance. Is ignorance bliss? Lead a friendly debate - which is better: knowledge or ignorance? Does it depend on the topic? Are there fixed qualifications? Consider this quote: It is one thing to wish for peace; it is quite another to pretend the war itself does not exist. (p. 310 large text edition)
Discuss this quote: Whereas angels were once the epitome of beauty and goodness, now, in our time, they are irrelevant. materialism and science have banished them to nonexistence, a sphere as indeterminate as purgatory. It used to be that humanity believed in angels implicitly, intuitively, not with our minds but with our very souls. Now we need proof. We need material, scientific data that will verify without a doubt their reality. Yet what a crisis would occur if the proof existed! What would happen, do you suppose, if the material existence of angels could be verified?
Discuss how you feel about the idea of angelmorphism based on this quote: ...the idea that Jesus Christ was not even human, but an angel. After all, the Virgin Birth occurred after the Angel Gabriel's visit.
Discuss the significance of names in the book, particularly Gabriella, Angela, Evangeline, and even Abigail Rockefeller's mother-in-law Laura Celestial.
Question: Is it significant that Verlaine figured out the clues and not the experienced Angelologists?
Question: How would you describe Trussoni's writing style? Did you like it?
Question: Did Sabine know all along she needed to retrieve the strings from the tapestry? She had security guards ready and the retriever standing by with a step stool. So why did she string Gabby and Verlaine along and make them figure it out?
Question: Is a romantic connection always necessary?
Serve Angel food cake or for a different cake option serve what Evangeline had as a young girl in the cafe before she followed her dad and saw the captured angel - she had "petite pink frosted cakes with blue marzipan flowers filled with thick butery cream that tasted slightly of chestnuts".