The Ninth Hour by Alice Mc Dermott
Have you watched Call The Midwife on PBS? It's a show about a convent of nurse midwife nuns in London and the young nurses (not nuns) assigned to work with them as they care for the poor community of the East End. It's a wonderful show, and if you haven't watched it yet, you should Netflix binge watch it this weekend. This book reminded me so much of Call the Midwife, and in the best way. Set in NYC, the book is about a convent of nursing nuns serving a poor neighborhood, and the book details and celebrates life's everyday occurrences, joys, and deaths much like the show. You fall in love with the characters, and love watching them grow and change, and your heart hurts with theirs when they make bad decisions, and you rejoice with them over their successes. As the book opens, Annie's husband has lost his job, and feels the only option he has is suicide, which he commits while he sends pregnant Annie out shopping. The nuns swoop in and help the new young widow, and offer her a job in the laundry of the convent. She spends many happy years there, and her daughter Sally, grows up in the laundry. Sally respects and admires the nuns very much, and decides she wants to be one as well. When she comes of age, she journeys to Chicago by train to begin her training, and things that happen on the train ride convince her that she's not cut out to be a nun. She returns home to find out a secret her mother has been sheltering for years, and decides she can no longer live with her mother. She lives with some family friends and begins helping the nuns care for an invalid woman. In a dramatic climax at the end of the book, Sally considers murdering the invalid woman, but can't bring herself to do it, and she ends up marrying one of the sons of the family she was staying with. Cozy, intimate, and heartwarming without glossing over any of the difficulty of growing up poor and submitting to hard work, this is a lovely, loving story, and a wonderful read, if a little slow at times.