Ageing Sister Johanna is sent (for the second time in her life) by Cardinal Raffin to Iceland to meet a boy from her past. Decades earlier, Raffin had sent her to Iceland to investigate abuse allegations at a small Church school. She had failed to find out what had happened the day she found a small boy locked in a broom cupboard as punishment. On that day, the priest at the centre of the allegations fell from the bell tower to his death. Now, Sister Joahanna is very reluctant to go back, but Raffin holds a secret about her. As a young priest, he had noticed her close friendship with her Icelandic roommate at theology college, and had accused her of “unnatural desires”. Fearing Raffin, she feels she has no option but to go back to Iceland to meet the boy from the broom cupboard.
“I had the impression that I was damned, even though all I had done was to be as God made me, and as I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling, I saw no difference between God’s justice and man’s injustice.”
“Why is it always our mistakes that linger in our memory?”
“I didn’t tell you everything …”~Quotes from “The Sacrament” by Olaf Olafson
- Kirkus: “Emotionally gratifying and spiritually challenging—a compelling novel that grabs the reader’s psyche and won’t let go.”
- New York Journal of Books: “Characters are distinct and vividly drawn as the novel examines the response of individuals and the Catholic church to moral and ethical dilemma. The prose is lyrical, and descriptions are brilliantly evocative of place and atmosphere. This is a novel to read closely, think about, and read again; it’s that good.”
- Chicago Review of Books: “The Sacrament is a quiet, contemplative novel. And Sister Johanna, her even-toned, melancholy tinged voice, her always calm demeanor never belying the storm inside her, is an ideal stand in for Olafsson’s Iceland. At once austere and full of passion. The whole book is a kind of mood. The Sacrament is based on real events that took place near where the author grew up. And of course it is. No one is shocked by the widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church — not anymore. Olafsson may not have given us a new story, but he has reminded us it is still a relevant one as institutional power continues to prey on both the weak and the resolute.”