Summary: A high flying lawyer, with no time for the spiritual life, is forced to confront the spiritual world.
Carter Graham is a no nonsense lawyer that has a life plan and is sticking to it. That life plan includes getting married at around 35 and having children sometime before 40. When Carter meets Kim Betz, she thinks she has found a perfect partner to continue her life plan.
As with most of Susan Howatch’s books the story is important, but the story is also a means to work through spiritual and philosophical issues. In this case, the atheist Carter Graham, confronts the reality of the spiritual world through unexpected spiritual manifestations (ghosts, spiritual healers, curses, etc.) and then has to work through her issues around theodicy, the problem of evil, the role of God in evil, why God didn’t create a perfect world, her role in sin and how her sin affects others and other’s sin affects her, etc..
More than most of Susan Howatch’s books I have read this is a book of explication. Carter spends a lot of time talking through issues with counselors, doctors, psychologists, spiritual directors, friends, etc. This allows for a lot of different perspectives, but also a book that is as much theology as story.
There is a story here, and it runs toward psychological thriller/mystery. It is definitely the creepiest of the Howatch books, but Howatch doesn’t tend toward creepy, so that isn’t saying too much.
Most of the negative reviews on Goodreads are irritated by the theological content. The main story is wrapped up about 80% of the way through the book and the last 20% is virtually all explication.
I really liked the book, but it is certainly not a book for everyone. But I like books that try to deal with ideas and use fictional world to set up those discussions. If you are looking for a fun read to pass the time, this is probably not it.