The Sacrament is the story of a nun returning to Iceland years after she was sent to investigate a priest running a Catholic elementary school who had been anonymously denounced for molesting children. She narrates the story as we slip between three timelines, her school years where she met Halla, her roommate who taught her Icelandic; her first investigative trip to Iceland, and her return years later to meet with a young man who was a student in the school, one who witnesses the suicide of the priest. The malignant presence of another priest haunts all three timelines, a man who uses his knowledge of her deepest secret to manipulate her.
It is not often a book surprises me, but I was surprised by The Sacrament. However, I also struggled to stay interested and was frustrated by the timeline jumping so often, not always clearly. An awful lot of time was spent on her the nun, her dog, her rose garden and her cell phone. I suppose it was to create as much narrative space in the present as in the past, but it did not hold my attention.
On the other hand, I liked her and was sympathetic to her struggle to do the right thing. Or what she thought was the right thing, denying her own needs for the precepts of faith. This is a story about her character and her choices more than anything else, and she, unlike the plot, is fascinating.
I received an e-galley of The Sacrament from the publisher through Edelweiss.