In terms of pleasure reading, I don’t usually go for historical fiction unless it’s a steamy romance set in Regency times or a mystery set post WWI.
When I picked up The Passion of Dolssa, I was immediately drawn to the cover. Then I read the inside and groaned. Religion? Heretics? The 13th century? And the book was so thick! I had heard buzz about this book but would never, ever have picked it up on my own. Burn Baby Burn had already made it to my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf because it involved the Son of Sam killer. Whenever true crime is worked into a story, I’m there.
The Passion of Dolssa is set mainly in 1241 and switches points of view primarily between Dolssa, Botille, and Friar Lucien. Dolssa is a young woman who preaches to people about the power of her beloved, Jhesus. He speaks to her and she can see him. When the church, especially Friar Lucien, find out about her, they bring her before them and question her. When she tells the truth, she is sentenced to burn for heresy. Before Dolssa can be killed, her bonds are cut and a voice whispers “run”. Botille, a young matchmaker, eventually finds her, nearly dead, and brings her back to the home she shares with her two sisters. In their town Bajas, Dolssa recovers and starts performing miracles among the townspeople. Meanwhile, Friar Lucien hears word about miracles happening in a small town and makes his way to Bajas to find his missing heretic. Will the townspeople protect or betray Dolssa?
Burn Baby Burn is set in 1977 in New York. Nora Lopez is counting the days until high school graduation and her 18th birthday. When that happens, she and best friend Kathleen are going to stay out all night dancing away at the disco. Then, she’ll get out of the apartment she shares with her mother and brother and be free. Until then, Nora is stuck. Stuck with her brother who is terrifying her and her mom. Stuck in a hot city when the killer Son of Sam is hunting people on the streets. Stuck going to school where the guidance counselor is trying to convince her to apply to college. It seems like the only bright spot happens with sexy Pablo starts working at the grocery store with her. When her brother becomes even more dangerous, Nora has to decide whether to turn against him and lose her family or stay silent about his crimes.
When I got the two books, I mentally sent Burn Baby Burn ahead in the bracket. When I read it, I loved Nora. The feminist scenes, the fact that she’s strong and capable on her own—that she’s a carpenter who also loves her Cherry Bomb lipstick and disco dancing. You can feel the seventies pulsing around you and the fear of a serial killer hunting people on the streets while a family member terrifies you at home. So you can imagine my surprise that The Passion of Dolssa took up space in my mind and wouldn’t let go. For the powerful writing, the way the characters seem so relatable, the feeling of the place and time of this story, and that people can do terrible things in the justification of the greater good, The Passion of Dolssa deserves to go on to the next round.