The Beatryce Prophecy

Image of The Beatryce Prophecy
Release Date: 
September 28, 2021
Reviewed by: 

“A brilliant meditation on love, family, trust, and the stories that bind us to each other.”

Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo’s new book is a brilliant meditation on love, family, trust, and the stories that bind us to each other. From first sentence to last, the writing is luminous, evoking a fairy tale world that connects deeply to eternal truths of what matters most in a life. It’s an important skill to start a book with a sentence that immediately draws in the reader, making one wonder what will happen next. The Beatryce Prophecy begins with a masterpiece of a first sentence, completely unexpected and intriguing at the same time:

“Answelica was a goat with teeth that were the mirror of her soul—large, sharp, and uncompromising.”

And the tone is set for everything that follows. Answelica has a fierce sense of right and wrong. She suffers no fools and loves deeply, unconditionally those she trusts. When a monk finds a young girl sleeping next to the goat, the plot is set into motion. Who is this dirty, bloodied girl clutching tightly to Answelica’s ear and why is the goat so protective of her?

In short propulsive chapters, the complications and riddles accumulate. The girl is no ordinary child. She can read and write, something nobody but monks, scholars, and tutors can do. And certainly not something a female is allowed to do. The girl herself has no answers. She can remember only her name, Beatryce, nothing else:

“She could not think about what she had forgotten, but she could think about its great absence, the dark hole where all the knowledge of who she was would be. For minutes at a time, she forgot this hole, and then she remembered it again, suddenly and terrifyingly—as if some wind had come upon her and caught at her feet and tugged her violently toward the abyss of not-knowing, not-remembering.”

The monk who finds Beatryce, Brother Edik, is a wonderful character who grows in complexity as the story unfolds. Like Answelica, he loves the child he found with a ferocity that is strange and new to him. Jack Dory, an orphaned boy, who enters the story as a messenger, is the third figure in this triumvirate protective of Beatryce, the subject of a mysterious prophecy. In the end, it’s not the prophecy that holds power, but language, the miracle of reading and the stories that words can create.

Here’s DiCamillo describing how Beatryce teaches Jack Dory to read:

“He watched the letters appear one by one beneath her hand, and he felt as if each letter were a door pushed open inside of him, a door that led to a lighted room. ‘The world,’ said Beatryce to Jack Dory,’ can be spelled.’”

And in books like this, the entire world is spelled, woven in the magic of storytelling.