My recent novel, Perfection, opens with an 18-year-old girl, her heart set on leaving home and becoming a nun. It is 1960 and Maggie Walsh is determined to embrace the customs and practices of a monastic world that hasn’t changed in centuries. Maggie’s innocence is shaped by these customs (often so secret that they remain unknown outside the convent cloister). Her spiritual longing for a close relationship with her God is her guiding light.
Over the course of a decade, Maggie’s determination and resolve are tested, by internal challenges, as well as external social and political forces — Church changes dictated by Vatican II; civil-rights upheaval; anti-Vietnam War resistance; and a string of assassinations of revered leaders followed by unrest and violence.
By the time the novel closes, Maggie has fallen out of love with her high-school sweetheart, only to fall into love with a fellow teacher named Will. Her outspoken zeal and impatience with slow change, invite scorn or at least disapproval from the very sisters she promised herself to.
Her discernment as she encounters real life tells her the only path to loving God is through loving another human being. Maggie and Will close the final chapter, Maggie wearing Will’s ring, Will singing Maggie a love song.
Shouldn’t it end there?
Do my readers really want to witness the struggles Maggie and Will are sure to face? Who wants to know if Maggie’s girl friends stay in the convent or go? Will Maggie’s brother Jack, back from Vietnam, recover from the horrors of war or be plunged into depression and alcohol-soaked anger? Is there anything AFTER 1968 as compelling as that Sixties decade?
I count on my readers to help provide the answers. To write a sequel or let these beautiful, lovable characters be? That is the question.