I was prepared to dislike this book, because I tend to distrust imaginative "biographies" of Christian saints. Too often, they tend to be sweetly sentimental. But my concerns were pointless in this case. Martin's "biography" of St. Francis is a wonderfully beautiful and reflective series of sketches. She takes scenes from his life--those related by the two earliest biographies by Thomas of Celano, but also later accounts such as Bonaventure's--and imaginatively weaves them into a cinematic-like procession that offers glimpses of the man Francis that shed light on our own spiritual journeys. The reviewer who carps about Martin's chronological lapses really misses the point of what she's trying to do. She doesn't intend to offer a straightforward account of the saint's life so much as a string of meditations that take their starting point from specific events in his life. And along the way she offers prose that is breathtaking in its beauty. Here's an example, taken from Martin's description of Francis early encounter with a leper--the episode that he himself, in his Testament, describes as his "conversion." Francis has just kissed the leper's hand (p. 241): "His ears are filled with the sound of wind, and he can feel the wind chilling his face, a cold, harsh wind blowing toward him from the future, blowing away everything that has come before this moment, which he has longed for and dreaded, as if he thought he might not live through it. He reaches up, clinging to the leper's tunic, for the wind is so strong, so cold, he fears he cannot stand against it. . . . The two men clutch each other, their faces pressed close together, their arms entwined. The sun beats down, the air is hot and still, yet they appear to be caught in a whirlwind. Their clothes whip about; their hair stands on end; they hold on to each other for dear life." Wow! With writing like that, how could one not love this book?