World War II. The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent. Four girls named Guinevere. Sarah Domet sets the stage for a story about what it means to be a teenager in search of freedom, and just what that might mean.

The Sisters of Supreme Adoration is a place for girls to go when they aren’t wanted anywhere else. Bonded mainly by name, four girls named Guinevere find friendship in an otherwise unforgiving place. Cared for by nuns who are a bit stereotypically ruthless and cold, the Guineveres are in some ways the Mean Girls of World War II. They are not friendly to the other girls and choose to spend their time together, nearly functioning as a single person.

Ginny, Win, Gwen, and Vere (the narrator) dream of escaping the convent. They must wait until they turn 18 before they can officially leave, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to break free. They imagine they’ll run away to the big city, become secretaries, and marry executives. Their lives will be as perfect as the ones they see in magazines. When the Guineveres attempt an actual escape, they are caught and punished with hospice duty.

One day, five wounded and unconscious soldiers are sent to the convent to be cared for. The Guineveres and another girl named Ebbie are assigned to care for them. When one of the soldiers wakes, he is reunited with his parents. Ebbie is sent home with him to be his caretaker, even though she’s only 17. The Guineveres believe that this is a great injustice. No other girl has ever left the convent early. The Guineveres hatch a new plan.

They’ll care for the soldiers – who they call Our Boys – and when the men wake, the girls will of course be sent home to care for each soldier. They’ll marry and be free of the convent. The girls believe, in typical teenager fashion, that severe injustices have been dealt to them. And, for some of them, this may well be true. But the girls become reliant on this dream, to heart-breaking ends.

Vere tells the story of the Guineveres, her perspective shifting from the collective view of the group as a whole to her occasional personal insights. She also includes intermittent bits of information about the girls’ future lives. Each girl gets a chapter of her own to tell the story of how she came to live at the Sisters of Supreme Adoration. There are also chapters that tell the story of female saints and their various suffering. These chapters, while sometimes unsettling, relate in some way to each girl and her own story.

There are other subplots, like the stories of the other girls at the convent and Father James, the alcoholic priest whose struggles are not made easier by the girls. And these side plots are where more of the stereotypes regarding Catholics are found. But the central plot of the four Guineveres is the most compelling. Though Vere does give glimpses at the girls’ future lives, the events at the convent are told in a way that does not betray their lack of life experience.

Overall, this was a great read. Though a few stereotypes creep in, they are mainly relegated to subplots. The central plot is strong and gripping. Each Guinevere is, despite her bond to the others, a complete character with an identity that comes to life on the page.

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