The Sacrament

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

I have loved all the author's previous books and this was no exception. Chilling. Good beach read to keep you all cool and distracted during this hot summer.
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A young nun is sent to Iceland to investigate the dark, malignant underbelly of the Catholic Church when an anonymous letter arrives with abuse accusations level at the priest in charge of the local school. So begins this wonderfully written, and haunting story which dwells inside this horrible secret that the church has tried to ignore for years.

Sister Johanna, now older but still conflicted with her own feelings, is sent back to Iceland to relive her first time there when, in the midst of putting her report on her findings together, the priest suddenly falls from the church's belfry. His death puts an end to the investigation except years later the young boy who witnessed his fall wants to tell the Sister something he forgot. With memories flowing back she reluctantly travels to the past and all secrets and truth are exposed.

Emotionally stirring, I think you will like this one.
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Enjoyable read about an area of the world that I wasn’t familiar with.  Some tough subject matters and hard to pronounce names but interesting story about a nun who struggles with self and god.  Jumps around a bit between decades and countries but different than the usual mystery or romance novel. Wish there were book club discussion questions because sometimes those help me in undestanding the storyline.  Thanks for the opportunity to read something a little different.
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This book was captivating. As a Catholic, I’ve always questioned certain things and this book simply fueled that fire. I simply adored it.
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I really enjoyed how slow the plot crept up on me while reading it. Because of the non-linear storytelling, it was very disjointed and hard to keep track of the story; but that could have been because of the ARC kindle format. It might be different and more clear if it was a physical copy. 
From what I could gather, there are three specific points in time the plot takes place: When Sister Johanna Marie is in school and meets Halla in the 1960s, when Sister Johanna Marie first visits Iceland to investigate the abuse allegations in the 1980s, and present day when she learns something new and has to go back to Iceland.

I could be wrong, but like I said, I kept losing track of where the story was and what plot was happening when. 

What I liked: Páll and Sister Johanna Marie's friendship throughout the book. Páll is a fun character and seems ok with going along with what the nun wants to do, only expressing concern when something bad might happen. Their interactions were cute and funny at times as well as interesting and sad.

What I didn't like: As stated above, the non-linear storytelling and the confusion stemming from that.
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First things first: I ABSOLUTELY did the silly thing where I saw the cover of this book and assumed it to be horror or even suspense. However! After realizing my mistake, I quickly started enjoying this book for the lovely piece of literature that it is! 

This story is told through the eyes of Sister Johanna Marie, an elderly nun who is called back to Iceland after years to further discuss a case that she looked into involving child molestation in the church. The timeline bounces back and forth between current day, her past schooling and when the investigation took place. 

This was a really great book, and there was even a twist that surprised me at the end of the novel.
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I really enjoyed this book! Definitely has a dark and twisty vintage vibe to it. It centers around a nun who witnessed something horrifying many years ago, and the cardinal who drags her back into that memory when the church is named in an investigation into the event. The story felt genuine (not contrived) and very timely given the seemingly endless scandals plaguing (no pun intended) the Catholic Church in present day. I highly recommend it for fans of the mystery/thriller genre, or fans of unreliable narrator-type stories, whether or not you grew up in the Catholic faith or are religious at all!
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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a chance to review this book.

In this sad time of so many children taken advantage of by people in religious leadership this book offers a different twist on it. Told from the point of view of a elderly Nun and set in Iceland this is a quick read that most will enjoy.  There are some discussion of crimes against children but it is not nearly as graphic as other similar books.
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The main character was interesting and the settings came alive, but the mystery and the revelations were a little quiet. I was somewhat surprised by the twist at the end, but it felt a little anticlimactic. I wanted to know more about Pauline/Johanna's friendship with Halla, and the resolution there was disappointing. I didn't understand why Raffin targeted Pauline, why he was so attuned to her feelings, why he followed her for so many years, why she played into it, and that really wasn't explained adequately. So much time was spent on the roses, and the dog, and her fellow nun, and ultimately they didn't matter at all.
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Does everyone else find reading books by authors from other countries interesting? Interesting as in different, refreshing or thought provoking? This book was one of those for me. How these characters processed thoughts and their emotions seemed so different from how American characters may have acted/reacted, not especially what said but more what was held back. As for the plot, it is nice to be reminded that people with good intentions, fighting against wrongdoing, still occasionally question whether they did enough, caused as little harm as possible, or should have been more forceful in the fight for right no matter from which country they came. After all, actions do speak louder than words, in the end.
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The Sacrament is a meditation on abuse of power, faith, regret, and memory. While the story is at times intriguing, the book is marred by troublesome and confusing time shifts. 

The main character (a nun) is called back to the scene of an investigation of abuse she conducted in Iceland from twenty years prior that ended in a suicide, which churns up memories from both that time period and her past life during her schooling. Her memories of her school days and her relationship with her Icelandic roommate are the best parts here, with the main character in a truly heartbreaking struggle between faith and who she is. Unfortunately, due to both the style of writing (often no quotation marks) and the way the flashbacks are presented (no denotation as to when a shift occurs), it's often difficult to tell which time stream is happening at the moment, which is problematic when there's three or four different ones throughout the book. This caused me to often pause and go back to try and figure out what time period I was in, and towards the end I simply gave in and let the narrative flow as it would. 

Despite this, I still found the story strong enough to keep me interested throughout. It's a melancholy read for sure, but has enough hope throughout to not descend into gloom. 

**I was given a copy of this book by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to HarperCollins Publishers.**
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This is a very well written book. It is thought provoking and interesting. I did find that it is a little hard to follow. There was not punctuation to indicate if the thoughts were said aloud or were internal. There were a lot of flashbacks. The plot of the book is very timely with today.
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The author has a unique style that I loved. The story is dark and thrilling, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I highly recommend this book!
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Poignant, surprising, haunting, gloriously atmospheric and ultimately deeply haunting, Olaf Olafsson has written a dark, dark, dark and yet profoundly compelling story of the present on a dangerous collision course with the present. The secrets in this novel yield deadly consequences.
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I have been thinking of The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson since i finished it two days ago and I fear that I may not be able to do it justice with my review. This was a wonderful book. I was at first slightly confused as the story is told in flashback form but this was the perfect format for this very moving story. 
Sister Johanna must travel into her past to bring peace to her present. She starts a journey to Iceland to meet someone from her past. She is not sure why this person will speak only to her but she does not want to relive the circumstances of her first visit to this small parish in Iceland. Throughout her journey she reflects on the past and at the end she is able to find peace with the choices she has made throughout her life. 
This story reflects on challenges that we face everyday and our responses to them. In some ways I was able to relate to the conclusions that Sister Johanna comes to. Sometimes simple choices we make can change our lives forever.
Cardinal Raffin has progressed through the church at the same time Sister Johanna does. He is a constant throughout her life that she is never able to escape. Are his intentions to be cruel as she sees them or is he really trying to help her see the strength within herself. 
I am in awe of this story, both the writing and the style in which it is written. 
I highly recommend this book as a great read for anyone. It is inspiring and thought provoking. But mostly it is a really great journey. I will definitely be reading more from Olaf Olafsson. Thank you for a lovely story.
I also want to add that the author tells a heartbreaking story but does not go into any graphic details of the characters desires or even misdeeds. I feel that sometimes the graphic details that authors include are not truly necessary and sometimes take something away from the end product. Thank you again
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Sister Johann has been called to Iceland to investigate a crime. It is a crime of alleged sexual misconduct between a priest and some of the young boys.
She is chosen because when she was young she had a friend that was from Iceland and taught her the language. 
After a thorough investigation  Sister Johann knows he is guilty. However, none of the children or their parents will go with her to have it documented officially. 
What's more the old priest knows her dilemma and taunts her. 
This is a story that takes current events and weaves it into a interesting and spellbinding book. The characters are interesting and have unique personalities. 
Definitely recommended.
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When I started the book, I recognized that the author had a different style and technique for telling the story.  After that adjustment, I was able to finish the book.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Harper Collins Publishers for an advanced copy of The Sacrament.
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The Sacrament is the story of Sister Johanna Marie, a nun who is sent to Iceland to investigate a possible sexual abuse charge against the Church. As she travels there, she recalls her time at school as well as her early years in the Church.

This book is a difficult one to review. On one hand, there was a lot that I appreciated. The prose is lovely and thoughtful, the plot is intriguing, and I'm always a sucker for a good story set in Iceland. However, there was also a lot that I struggled with throughout the book. I disliked the lack of quotation marks. It made it difficult to differentiate between internal character thoughts and conversations with other people. I also disliked that the chapters bounced around the timeline without any sort of time indicator in the chapter heading. A date and location (or even just the date) at the start of each chapter would have made reading this book a lot easier! I also wasn't particularly fond of Sister Johanna. She's a sad, self-doubting character for much of the book, and I wonder if that affected my perception of her narration. I felt very disconnected from her when I wanted my heart strings to be tugged by what she had gone through. 

Overall, this book wasn't for me, but if you enjoy thought-provoking stories with a bit of mystery, this might work for you! 

Thanks to Olaf Olafsson, HarperCollins Publishers, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review!
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Alternating primarily between present day and the 1980s, The Sacrament follows Sister Johanna Marie as she recalls her time investigating allegations against the Church at an Icelandic primary school in the 1980s. When the school's Headmaster, Father August Frans, falls to his death from the church bell tower during the investigation, his death is ruled a suicide. But decades later, new information from an eyewitness has emerged, and Sister Johanna must race back to Iceland as the truth is finally revealed. 

What I liked: I loved Páll's character and the dynamic that he had with Sister Johanna. I also enjoyed all of the flashbacks to the 1960s when Sister Johanna (then Pauline) was in school, and the events leading up to her decision to take her vows. 

What I didn't like: I admittedly struggled with this book for many reasons. The writing style was disjointed and very difficult to follow. This was compounded by the alternating time frames of the narrative, which were not denoted through chapter titles, headers, or any other change in font. I often had to double check when and where the story was taking place. While the story eventually picked up pace and I adjusted to the writing style, overall I did not enjoy this book.
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This was a fascinating mystery with a wonderfully unique protagonist. The author clearly knows the tricks of the trade. I can’t wait for a film/stage adaptation. This will be the perfect winter read!
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