The Staircase: 07/15/10
If you've been to Santa Fe, New Mexico, you've probably either seen or at least heard of the spiral staircase at the Loreto Chapel. I took to staircase tour about 20 years ago so when I saw that Ann Rinaldi had written The Staircase, a novel about the creation of the staircase I had to borrow it from my library.
Lizzy Enders is left at an all girls school in Santa Fe, run by the nuns who also run the chapel. Her father is heading towards Colorado and promises he'll be back for her but she doesn't believe him. To make her life more bearable at the school she befriends a grieving woman who goes the cemetery out of town every day. Later she befriends a stranger, a mysterious carpenter named Jose who might have the solution the nuns need to finish the staircase.
If the point of the book is the building of staircase and the miracle behind it that so many people believe in, why have the story told by an outsider? Lizzy doesn't care about the staircase, the chapel or anything else at the school or convent. She misses her recently dead mother and her father who has gone onto to Colorado.
My biggest problem with the book is Lizzy and her story. It competes too much with the story of the nuns and their chapel. The on-going tug of war between the two biggest plot points creates a sense of poor pacing for the book as a whole.