In Sara Maitland's novel Ancestral Truths 36-year-old photographer Clare Kerslake is brought down from Mount Nyangani, the highest mountain in Zimbabwe, with a mangled hand and memory loss. She seems to think she killed her lover, David, who has not been found. While recuperating, Clare decides to spend some time with her adoptive family in Scotland. This large clan is headed by James, an Anglican priest, and his wife Hester. They provide Clare with a healing space and an opportunity to focus on what really happened to her on Mount Nyangani.

Sara Maitland's intricately structured novel is profoundly spiritual and richly cross-cultural. Although Clare has fallen away from Christianity, her parents are deeply religious. Her brother Ron, an Anglican priest, has been kicked out of the church for his homosexuality, and her sister Ceci has decided to become a Carmelite nun. There is much talk about God as a source of strength but not of security. In fact, Ceci says, "In the final count, it seems to me God isn't safe. God is the only danger big enough."

In recalling her trip to Zimbabwe with David, Clare is haunted by her meeting with Joyful Masvingise, a healer who advises her to listen to her ancestors. Her stories about an African mermaid spirit and the fierce spirits on Mount Nyangani make a deep impression on Clare. These tales color her dreams and eventually enable her to confront her disabling fear and her obsession with safety. A final rendezvous with the legacy of her parents is the key to Clare's healing.

Sara Maitland's thought-provoking novel presents a meditation upon the spiritual concept that what you resist persists. Trying to hide from danger and to avoid risk, Clare constantly keeps running into risky situations and people who put themselves in jeopardy in order to experience terrible beauty. Savor Ancestral Truths. It is an enthralling novel.