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Woman of God

Book Review
Reviewed by Antonia Shoumatoff

Maxine and James. Photo by John A. Duffy

Maxine Paetro may be better known locally for her exquisite garden than she is for being an internationally-acclaimed author.  Her latest book, co-authored with James Patterson, Woman of God, is a courageous undertaking, in that it addresses some of the heavier issues of our time. Why are innocent people  pointlessly slaughtered in faraway places?  Can one can keep one’s faith in the face of perpetual loss? 

Woman of God is the story of a woman who, after serving as a doctor under the most horrific circumstances in Africa, questions her faith, becomes a Catholic priest and returns to again serve as a doctor.

“Why was all this happening?  Was God testing humanity or was He unwilling to intervene?” the heroine, Brigid Fitzgerald, asks. 

The ordination of women in the Catholic Church becomes the backdrop; enabling priests to be married follows.    

Ms. Paetro talked about her working relationship with James Patterson and how she  wrote about these issues while not being Catholic.  She said Patterson was passionate about the topic and had much to say.  The development and writing was done by Maxine Paetro herself.

As Brigid, the heroine, loses one loved one after another and endures devastating circumstances,  she finds her true mission and returns to where she first doctored the needy and bonded with orphans and the destitute. In the process, she has to let go of her loves, loses a child and becomes exalted.

Despite the rough scenes,  there is a transcendence and a connection to God; there is  hope; Brigid is both embraced and maligned.  Paetro is skillful in depicting Brigid’s emotional and spiritual transformation. 

Characters bear familiar names to those of us who live in Amenia. Thus, we come across Katherine Dunlop, a kind psychiatrist, Dr. Rob Dweck, a doctor who runs an a rehab center, and Tonia Shoumatoff, a “firebrand reporter from the Millbrook Independent” who interviews the Woman of God when she returns from visiting the Pope. 

Paetro has often used names, with permission, of real life people living in the vicinity.  It makes for a tight family relationship with her fictional characters.  Real life is not so different from fiction after all.  We are all living out our own stories, many of which are stranger than fiction.