Goddess Fish, Reading, review

So Close To Heaven

I don’t volunteer to write reviews all that often, so you know when I raise my hand to read a book and discuss it, the book must be special. This one is.


A harrowing tale of a single woman’s fight to preserve her beloved abbey, a tale of courage and perserverance – based on a true story.

South Tirol, Sabiona Abbey, 1796: Magdalena, a Benedictine nun, lives with her fellow sisters at Sabiona Abbey, a secluded monastery atop a cliff high above the Eisack valley and only reachable by a strenuous climb. In this simple life of work, prayer and reading, Magdalena feels safe from the world, assured that her secret will remain hidden forever.

Until one-hundred-seventy Tirolian soldiers demand entry, Napoleon’s army is almost upon them. As the world, Magdalena has so carefully built, crumbles, she must make a choice: leave the abbey to join her sisters at the bishop’s summer residence or fight to save it—even if it may cost her everything.


The girl’s long dark hair clings to her face and back. Rain hammers the ground with such intensity, the drops jump up as if possessed. The sound of rushing water fills the air, brooks and rivulets gurgle and splash on their race to the valley. It is dark, so dark, the girl picks her steps carefully, like a blind person on an unknown road. Yet she knows these hills, these paths, the breathtaking vistas of these alpine pastures. Knows them like only somebody who has grown up here can.

Somewhere in the distance, lightning flashes, illuminates a sheer rock wall rising into the heavens, the stunted gnarly trees below like stubby black arms. The air is cold up here, much colder than in the valley where the girl came from. She is not dressed for this, the fabric of her skirt heavy with water, her blouse and bodice too thin to keep out the wind. She wears no coat, no bag or pack, not even decent shoes.

Yet the girl does not seem to notice. She walks slowly, dreamlike, yet with purpose. It is the place she left that gives her this purpose. It is spring, April, a month when nature up here still pivots between winter and summer. Snow clings to the tops, and the rain is not far from freezing. In good weather, these peaks kiss the sky, a sky that takes on a blue as deep as the Caribbean Sea, so clear, it almost scorches the eyes.

Amazon | Goodreads

My Thoughts

From the blurb on, this book ticked all of my boxes: historical, Napoleonic, a mystery. And Oppenlander did not disappoint. Her use of language is amazing and drew me right in. I’m a fan of imagery, and she deftly draws scenes elegantly.

And then there’s the plot. I don’t want to spoil anything. Just go read the book, okay?

About the Author

Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past. 

Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story. 

Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she now lives with her husband and dog Zelda in Germany.

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