While highly speculative as a novel, this book is based on a few theories - what if Saint Bernadette obtained secrets from the Virgin Mary during the alleged apparitions? Suppose she hallucinated, or worse she faked the whole thing? And what if the so called miracle cures at Fatima were nothing more than spontaneous remissions?
The main plot is the final secret - that Mary will make another appearance during a specific week in time, and the pilgrims who flock to Lourdes in hopes of being the lucky one. A number of characters intersect in ways that are quite unexpected.
A theatre producer from London's West End awaiting confirmation a remission from cancer is a cure.
A skeptical psychologist who is dragged along by her fiancé, a true believer who thinks Lourdes is a better guarantor of a cure than standard surgery.
An atheistic reporter sent to cover the story who finds that even Bernadette didn't quite buy into her own hype.
Another atheist, a top operative from the Soviet Union, who goes under disguise hoping he'll be cured of muscular dystrophy.
A blind woman whose simple faith she could be cured also leads to a surprising and sensual seduction.
A terrorist from ETA determined to blow Lourdes up, who is forced to face a reality he didn't quite expect.
And a lonely tour guide, hoping to get a meal ticket out of the town to get a plum job at the United Nations, when she gets the opportunity of a lifetime.
I read this story years ago and I'm still impressed by how the various plot lines intersect. It's a bit dated now - after all, there is no Soviet Union and skepticism about miracles is far greater than ever. But it's one of Irving Wallace's best books.
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