These ten stories are irresistible because their author is both fearless and ambitious. Newman switches points of view effortlessly, brings us to far-flung regions of the world, and has an uncanny, authentic grasp of cultures. We travel from Varanasi to Tijuana, from Rome to Lhasa, to New Orleans, Valdez, Barcelona and the Isle of Skye.
The characters are just as diverse: Maggie, who is taking the ghost of her dead brother and her guilt on a spiritual trek of redemption to the Annapurna Sanctuary in Nepal; Gomez, who has a date with destiny in the syrup aisle at the Tijuana hypermarket, while his friend Chuy carries Jesus on his back through the street vendors at the Mexican/US crossing; a Norwegian preacher relocates to Varanasi India in a valiant effort to convert Hindus and Muslims to Christianity, while his son watches the bodies burn on the banks of the Ganges; and in the title story, the women who run an undercover orphanage in New Orleans don habits by day, but play poker at night.
While these fictions occur thousands of miles apart and evince wildly different cultures and situations, they are unified in their portrayal of ordinary citizens of the world struggling against extraordinary events. And they are written with a remarkable mixture of pathos and humor.