Something about this book did not really appeal to me when it was proposed as our book club read for January, but since everyone else wanted to read it, I had to, too, and I'm very glad I did. I became absolutely engrossed within a few pages. The author weaves a rather amazing tale, overflowing with backstory, and his story-telling skills are stellar. The book is almost totally a narrative, with not so much as a boring paragraph. The subjects covered throughout the pages are many, but all information is imparted within the context of the story, with the unexpected benefit that I feel I know more than I did before I read the book, but the learning was enjoyable. His characters are ripe with life, and humanity, and not an improbable one in the entire book. I think perhaps the bit that made me hesitate at first was that I found a nun pregnant with twins a little bizarre and maybe distasteful. The storyline that eventually emerges regarding that circumstance is believable and sad, and touching. This man is a truly gifted storyteller. I read quite a bit, and it has been some time since I've so wholeheartedly enjoyed a story.