How Fiction Fails

Ron Hansen
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23, 227 pp.

The figurative “exile” of religious believers—their status as unsettled pilgrims in a hostile world—was a literal condition for many Catholics in nineteenth-century Protestant Europe. In Germany, religious orders were disbanded under the Falk Laws, enacted to restrict the activities and influence of the church. Many sent their members to serve abroad. Thus five Franciscan nuns were aboard the Deutschland, en route to America, when the ship ran aground off...

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About the Author

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is Commonweal's associate editor at large. She blogs at dotCommonweal.