The Table

513o6tFxu0L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_In his debut novel Red Sash of Thorns, Thomas Munoz takes his readers on a suspenseful journey from the Eternal City to Israel’s Negev Desert to the American Southwest, as Robert Susio, an American archeologist and devout Catholic, battles Rome over a discovery that, if revealed, will shake Christianity to its very core.

When the story opens, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Poppo awaits with great anticipation the death of the gravely-ill Pope, so as to assume the papacy himself, which he believes is his rightful destiny. At the same time, the Cardinal battles to conceal two secrets that could destroy both him and the Church: one discovered in an Israeli desert, the other, hidden in his past.

Although the Cardinal enlists the assistance of the brilliant Jesuit anthropologist, Feliche Serroni to counter Susio’s claims, the archeologist is determined to reveal the truth—no matter the cost. He offers Cardinal Poppo, an ultimatum. In exchange for Susio’s silence, there must be sweeping reform of the Catholic Church, to include lifting the ban on women’s ordination.

More than once, I paused while reading to ponder whether art imitates life or vice versa. A story that features Vatican officials seeking to conceal the truth, an ambitious cleric, and an attempt to silence a dedicated lay person, will be all-too familiar to many Roman Catholic readers. There is, however, something delightful about watching such familiar characters interact in a fictionalized world. Unlike in real-life, the narrative provides readers with the hope that this time things could end differently, this time truth and justice will prevail.

If you’re looking for an enjoyable and thought-provoking read, Red Sash of Thorns fits the bill. It’s a rare book that features a character committed to women’s ordination, even rarer when the balance of power favors that character over the clerical establishment. But perhaps what makes this book really unique is its ending. Without giving anything away, I admit to having gasped audibly on reading the last line of the book and to experiencing an instantaneous realization that I have never been more satisfied with the conclusion of any story in my life.

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Guest post by Jeannette Mulherin, WOC board president.