There’s an old saying that water can wear away stone, but only over hundreds of years. In a classic Stephen King novel, Christine, a character, argues that people are not stone, but mortal.
Spencer Hamilton’s Sister Funtime untethers this phrase from such limitations and instead strangles it into a festering devout, sinister power — something inhuman and hungry for flesh.
Sister Mary Matthew arrives on St. Tereasa’s Joyous Youths Orphanage steps beaming with the thought of becoming the children’s favorite nun.
Within moments of arrival, she meets the unpleasant head of the orphanage, Sister Agatha Eustace, who beats the doldrums of the old place with ruthless, bloody, and tyrannical tactics — all, of course, in the name of God. The children secretly call her “Sister Killjoy.”
Sister Mary finds sanctuary in a fellow nun, Ines, and the children, particularly twin sisters named Hanna and Haley (whom the author actually named after my twin sister and me. A little nod that meant the world).
Despite the harsh ruling of Sister Killjoy, Sister Mary still finds ways to have fun with the children, playing games, and cooking breakfast. Soon, they give her a nickname too — “Sister Funtime.”
But not all is glee and sunshine, as Sister Killjoy would say, “Too much sunshine leads to sin.”
Sister Mary feels God has abandoned her and her prayers are unanswered. Malevolence transpires at the orphanage — sick children denied medical treatment, a crowded cemetery, cruel punishments, and a demented man who takes the children away, one at a time, for “fun.”
And then, Sister Mary feels a force within her — within the cross she wears around her neck. A guiding force that burns into her flesh and quickly becomes the almighty guidance she’d been praying for.
Hamilton’s religious horror novella is a steadfast, pulverizing read. Readers, you’ll be at the edge of your seat, wincing at every thorn, nail, and flame Sister Funtime conjures in this tale of penance and fury.
I’ll be grabbing a copy of Smileyland soon!