Here is the entry (preambled by Praise from the Critics) in Acacia House’s catalog for The Virgin of Bright Leaf (aka, Sabra the Astonishing) at least as unedited. What do you think?
“Melissa Hardy is quietly becoming one of the best writers of short fiction working today, equally at ease with modern realist fiction, historical fiction, magical realism, and pure fantasy.”
Terry Windling, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, 2003.
“The Uncharted Heart turns out to be a dazzling performance. . . . a remarkable evocation of events and place in Canadian history, a discerning examination of human motivation and behavior, and an adroit use of language. Melissa Hardy has an obvious place in the chart of Canadian writers.”
The Globe and Mail
In The Virgin of Bright Leaf, Melissa Hardy returns to her native North Carolina to serve as location for her rollicking tale of a Marian vision gone terribly wrong. The novel is set during the turbulent sixties, not thirty miles from the site of the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, on the estate of the Buck family – the Bucks are heirs to a considerable tobacco fortune and the town of Bright Leaf’s most prominent citizens.
The novel tells the story of what happens when Sabra Buck, a headstrong and willful fourteen-year old girl, fresh from convent school and a torrid love affair with one of her instructors, a nun endowed with Discriminatio Spirituum – the ability to discern demons — sees an apparition which she takes to be the Virgin Mary. It is, of course, not the Virgin Mary, but something far more sinister and deeply rooted in her family’s tragic and convoluted past.
The Virgin of Bright Leaf explores the phenomenon of Marian visions and the steamier underside of Catholic excess, with cameo appearances by snake-handlers and assorted demons, all set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement. It’s also kind of funny.