On a dim winter afternoon in a Brooklyn tenement, a young Irish immigrant unhooks the oven gas, and inhales. In the aftermath of the fire that follows, Sister St Savior, an ageing nun, appears unbidden to direct the way forward for his widow and unborn child. This is how Sally comes to grow up in the convent laundry, amidst the crank of the wringer and the hiss of the iron, her universe governed by the strange, king and mysterious Little Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor.
But although superstition and shame will collude to erase Sally's father's brief existence, his suicide will reverberate through many lives and over many decades. And when she comes of age, Sally will commit her own irrevocable deed, sacrificing her grace at the altar of human love.

The Ninth Hour, Alice McDermott

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