Priscila Uppal, Author . Algonquin $24.95 (403p) ISBN 978-1-56512-365-6

A nun is haunted by the lurid death of a former classmate in this overwrought debut novel that's equal parts mystery and coming-of-age story. When Sister Angela receives a seemingly innocuous package containing a silver candlestick, it jolts her into a series of guilty flashbacks to her teenage days at St. X. School for Girls, a fancy Catholic boarding school in Ottawa, where she insinuated herself into a powerful clique of sex-obsessed girls called the Sisterhood. Events spun out of control when they invited a diligent classmate, Bella, to join their group on the condition that she lose her virginity. Bella's attempts to do so led to her grisly death. Angela has been haunted by the tragedy ever since, and she takes the arrival of the candlestick as a sign that she must finally reckon with her role in Bella's death. The crucible of the Catholic girls' school is always rich material, but Angela's schoolmates (who include a pretty, rich popular girl, a mousy hanger-on and other familiar characters) are underdeveloped, which is especially disappointing given the amount of space Uppal devotes to Angela's school days. Indeed, the mystery of who sent the candlestick loses its urgency amid all of the detailed flashbacks, and Uppal's resolution is simply absurd (even Angela herself seems not to want to dwell on it). Those who can't get enough of back-stabbing schoolgirl yarns might make it to the end, but, with the exception of the gruesome scene on which it hinges, the novel is unmemorable. (Oct. 4)

Reviewed on: 09/30/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Ebook - 978-0-385-67334-1
Paperback - 416 pages - 978-0-385-65805-8
Open Ebook - 416 pages - 978-1-61620-234-7
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