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The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn

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 “In her gently probing, gorgeously written debut novel, the Annunciation of Francesca Dunn, Janis Hallowell explores our desperate desire to believe in something . . . this book is nothing short of divine.” -- USA Today

“Provocative and suspenseful . . . Hallowell offers no easy answers as her various narrators incisively trace the intricate connections between divinity and madness, faith and reason.” --People, 4 stars, Critic’s Choice

“ . . . The religious novel has had a spotty record in the past couple of decades. Ron Hansen’s “Mariette in Ecstasy” is a work of considerable power and mystery, but those qualities are tamed, rendered safe, by the remoteness of time and setting, a turn of the century convent. Any promise in John Irving’s “A Prayer for Owen Meany” died stillborn, a victim of the author’s adolescent gimmickyness and ham-handed preaching. Devoid of religious dogma or pat answers, the Annunciation of Francesca Dunn dares us to imagine mystery in our lives, in our time. It’s a book that sends us away refreshed, with the potential to see the sacramental in the everyday.” -- The Boston Globe

“A charming and inventive modern spin on the Annunciation of the Virgin. With its vivid, direct language, deft characterizations and gentle humanity, this memorable debut lifts our spirits and teases us with the limits of the possible.” -- Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander

“A unique novel about the human yearning for the divine and the divine possibility in human beings. Beautifully written and thought-provoking, it will steal your heart.”
-- Sue Monk Kidd author of The Secret Life of Bees

“Hallowell creates convincing characters in circumstances that are never totally black and white . . . Recommended.” -- Library Journal

“[An] ambitious first novel . . . Hallowell challenges the reader to think in new ways . . there’s a lot to admire in the complexity of issues [she]raises – and in her lack of easy answers.” -- Kirkus Reviews

“Intriguing and memorable.” -- Booklist

“Hallowell’s characters . . . are eccentric without being caricatures. Everyone in the story has dimension and importance  . . . all contribute mightily to a tightly woven fable.”
-- Amazon.com

“Skillful…delightful…charming… The characters are quirky, troubled, and appealing, and we’d be willing to follow them just about anywhere.”-- Boulder Daily Camera

“Thought-provoking.” -- The Denver Post

“The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn asks poignant emotional questions, striving to define reality and redemption in a troubled world.” -- Rocky Mountain News

“Beautifully written and brimming with strong, appealingly eccentric characters, this magical and modern twist on the story of the Virgin’s Annunciation raises intriguing questions about the nature of contemporary faith and religion.” -- BookPage

“Janis Hallowell writes with lucid grace of madness, divinity, and the tender watershed between the two. Brave and compelling, The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn delves into the characters who yearn for the holy with very human hearts and reminds us that we must struggle with belief until a blessing is evoked” -- Donna Gershten author of Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth

“A clever coming-of-age tale that explores the many ambiguities of faith and reason.”
-- Fort Meyers News-Press

“Uncommonly moving and well told.”
-- Tampa Tribune


What would happen if an ordinary teenager were suddenly proclaimed a modern day Holy Virgin? That is the premise of Janis Hallowell’s wise and provocative debut novel The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn.

A failed prodigy and child of divorce, Francesca Dunn is also an adolescent like any other, trying to find her identity, and figure out her place in the world. One night, Chester, a visionary – or insane – homeless man (depending on your point of view) “sees” Francesca hovering over the river, bathed in celestial light. Days later, as Francesca serves meals to the needy in a local café, Chester falls to his knees before her in adoration. Word spreads; hordes of followers converge, and the result is a catastrophic storm of fervent belief and doubt, the relentless and perpetual desire for salvation, possible miracles, and an adolescent trapped by events far beyond her control.

The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn is a beautifully crafted tale about people who pin their hopes for spiritual salvation on a young girl; and how, slowly, surely, and tragically, she comes to believe that she is the divine being they want her to be. At stake for each is nothing less than the fundamental belief in the structure of the world, and the balance between the miraculous and the mundane.

Narrating by turns are four disparate characters who tell the story as they see it: Chester, who smells fear, disease, and holiness, and who appoints himself Francesca’s protector and follower; Anne Dunn, Francesca’s paleobotanist mother who places her faith in Darwin and natural selection; Sid, the schoolmate, who wants to use Francesca’s new circumstances for her own profit; and Francesca herself, who becomes increasingly deluded by the adoration bestowed upon her.

At once powerful, tender, and humorous, The Annunciation of Francesca Dunn is an astonishing and resonant work from an exciting new talent. With each of its gentle revelations, the novels brings an unforgettable cast of characters to vibrant life, is it brilliantly explores the seductive and destructive power of belief.