The Virgin Knows by Christine Palamidessi Moore
The Virgin Knows by Christine Palamidessi Moore

First off, any book that has a picture of Madonna and child on the cover, gets points with me.  I immediately looked up the artist (Pietro Perugino) and the current location (Galleria Borghese, Rome) so that I could do a little armchair travelling and art appreciation.  That done, I settled into the book.

It is an entertaining and interesting world Moore has placed between the covers of her novel.  Though the pace was occasionally uneven, it was highly entertaining.  The number of topics covered is slightly amazing: twin stuff, “mom always liked you best”, post WWII Italy, nursing (the image of a psychic OR nurse really made me smile), translocation, immigration, the old country, conspiracy, art theft, Roman Catholicism, men’s views of women, women’s views of men, love– as I said it was broad.

The title of the book is a nice play on words.  While Alicia, the quinticential spinster/virgin knows all (though some of it is through psychic ability, it washer brother Carlos who did find and pocket a fragment of the Virgin Mary’s nose, when the Pietà was damaged in 1972.  The Virgin Knows — The Nose Knows.  Who knows?  Throughout the book I found other use of words as descriptors that delighted me: “Renato had a shiny reputation”, the description of a throbbing head as a “red” sound.  Or the teasing of immigrants bungling language.  Or simple observations, that really are so profound )”If you stay awake too often, you lose your dreams.)

There is a sub-plot of art theft and recovery, but ultimately, this is a story about many things:  sibiling loyalty, passion, nurturing, devotion.  Of separation, grief, abandonment and berievement.  Of discovery, rediscovery and explorations Of relationships and generations caring for each other (I was particularly touched by Alicia’s caring for her aging mother, and recognition of role reversal there “She was not only my mother, but also my daughter and my friend.”  I am envious that she never lost patience.  That’s hard to do.  Trust me on that.) Of redemption, faith and the belief in family.  What the Virgin knows, is ultimately about love.

THE VIRGIN KNOWS by Christine Palamidessi Moore  IAP press