Little is known about St. Brigid, one of Irelandís patron saints: that she was inspired by the teachings of St. Patrick, and that she founded many convents. Some even said that she became the first female bishop and composed an illuminated manuscript that rivaled the Book of Kells. These provocative theories provide the backdrop to Terrellís novel, which is part historical fiction, part modern adventure and romance.
Three stories unfold throughout the book. The first is Brigidís early life and conversion to Christianity up to her training by St. Patrick and embrace of the Christian lifestyle. This narrative arc presents a wonderful portrayal of a fiery young woman who, even though she takes a spiritual path, never stops asking questions - such as why women arenít admired.
The second story involves Decius, a monk from Rome sent to spy on a now-adult Brigid. Deciusís journey is moving, particularly as he begins the story arrogant and blind to his own beliefs, slowly adjusting and ultimately falling in love with the female bishop. Their final scenes as they contemplate some dramatic moves to shake up the Catholic Church are evocative and thought-provoking.
The third story doesnít work as well as the historical stories but does hold its own charm. Alex, a young archaeology student researching the life of Brigid, finds some interesting treasures and potential romance with a colleague. Alexís story interrupts Brigidís story, becoming an unnecessary break in the tension. The modern chapters herald little suspense, leading to a more ďso-whatĒ factor in the reader. However, Alex does make for a resilient, saucy protagonist, and her scenes with her colleague are cute and clever.
Brigid of Kildare works best with the title character. If Terrell had left the modern story alone, it would present a wonderful portrayal of a woman choosing her own spiritual path.