Cynthia Piantedosi is just an ordinary woman --- daughter of Italian immigrants, a good Catholic, growing up quietly as the only child of a widowed dad, trying to get through nursing school. Completely ordinary, that is, except for those “spells.” In VATICAN WALTZ, author Roland Merullo has created an intriguing, intelligent mystery about the inner spiritual life and the outer limits of Catholic authority.
From her earliest childhood, Cynthia has the spells. They gradually change from childlike, daydreamy states to “a sense of fearlessness…another larger, brighter place…another room in the enormous castle or mansion I was being given glimpses of.” When still a young teen, she finds a priest who mentors her until, shortly before his mysterious “accidental” death, he declares that he has no more to teach her. Even her own father begins to defer to her and asks her how to pray. Her path to understanding her visions and herself gradually leads to Italy, to the Vatican, to men who tell her to forget her strong perception that she is destined to become a priest. Modest, but quick and steely minded, she argues even with the highest officials, and this may put her life in danger. There are wheels within wheels in the Church hierarchy, and not everyone is delighted with the idea of a rogue but undeniably saintly female leader.
"It is rare to read a book so well crafted, about a person so simple yet so profoundly different from others."
Led by ever more devious messages and her inner calling, Cynthia finally meets Cardinal Zossimo, who seems to have been waiting for her and wants to help her. It won’t be like Cynthia might have imagined --- no worldly fame or power, which she has not sought, but a deeper inward journey. Just when the story seems to be resolved, Cynthia is the victim of an attack, and from that moment, new revelations suddently lift this story off the page. The clues that are strewn about, the questions about who or what Cynthia really is, the deft manner in which the author has slowly built his case for the mystical destiny of his heroine, all beg for a sequel.
It is rare to read a book so well crafted, about a person so simple yet so profoundly different from others. Cynthia takes each moment as it comes, meets everyone on his own ground, and refuses to let ego drive her, even though we have glimpses of the magnitude of her gifts. Does she really heal people? Was someone brought back to life by her ministrations? And what will happen next in the dangerous direction she finds herself going, propelled by supernatural forces and pursued by willful and satanic forces within the Church she reveres?
VATICAN WALTZ is a must-read for lovers of conspiracy theories, for those religionists who like to think outside the cathedral and dabble in a little spiritual speculation, and for anyone who enjoys following a well-made plot with a twist in the tale.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on February 7, 2014
- Publication Date: December 3, 2013
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Crown
- ISBN-10: 0307452956
- ISBN-13: 9780307452955