She smells like roses

Never have a I read a book that alternated narrators so often. Some how keeping in chronological order and without confusion, the author writes this story through the eyes of four people. They alternate by chapter and include all the same people but entirely different perceptions and feelings.

The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn: A Novel by Janis Hallowell. This book had me engrossed from the very beginning. The main character Francesca is an 8th grade girl who often times finds herself feeling completely alone. Her parents are divorced. Her dad and his girl friend have moved to Italy and her Mom is always away for work. She spends a lot of time at her neighbor, Ronnie’s, cafe with her best friend Sid.

So when a homeless man who frequents the cafe, Chester, has an epiphany and decides believes Francesca is the Blessed Virgin because she smells like roses; he deems himself her protector. Chester follows her every move and makes sure no one brings harm her way. It catches on that Francesca is special, soon people swarm around her wanting to be blessed, thinking she can perform miracles. It isn’t long before she begins to believe she may be the Virgin. The belief grows so strong that she even thinks she is carrying a child.

The devotion and admiration Francesca receives from these strangers begins to make her feel a part of something. She wants to please them, heal them and give them hope. Several people claim after being blessed by her they are healed of their afflictions.

Anne, Francesca’s Mom, finally comes home from being away at a site for work. She freaks out at what is happening to her daughter and blames Ronnie for letting things get so out of hand.

As the reader I wasn’t sure what to make of everything. I think a part of me wanted to believe she was the Blessed Virgin. But as the story grew on I realized most of what was happening was through her imagination. Francesca and everyone around her were searching for someone or something to make their lives better.

Anne took Francesca far away on a trip to a cabin after the crowd of devotees started getting out of control and at times violent. With time and medical counsel Francesca begins to see she is not a holy person, she is not pregnant and she is not alone.

The book was well written and insightful. There are other themes throughout the story, but you will have to read it for yourself. My only complaint is that I felt it was developing beautifully until the last few chapters. It is almost as if the author was rushing to get it done and she just abruptly ended the story. I suppose I needed some more closure for Francesca, but perhaps we are meant to think that through on our own.

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