What happens when a troubled young woman dares to follow the stirrings of her soul in turbulent times? Elmina begins life with a troubled childhood in a medieval French town-a childhood that turns her into a spiritually seeking young woman who dares to follow the stirrings of her soul. Her idealism and love lead her to leave a Cathar school and follow the man who will become Saint Dominic. As the world around her erupts into the Albigensian Crusade, Elmina finds herself complicit in its horror, and her spiritual and emotional life begins to unravel. With the aid of the counsel of her wise prior, Brother Noel, Elmina learns to paint her experiences within a sacred circle-a practice that helps her discover the origins of her lifelong fears and wrestle with questions that are as divisive today as they were eight centuries ago: the nature of God, the purpose of creation, the nature of evil, and the possibility of reincarnation.
Linda Carleton graduated from Yale Divinity School, was ordained in the United Church of Christ, and formerly worked in refugee resettlement. She now lives in Portland, Maine, where she teaches, writes, and offers workshops on mandala journaling and spiritual growth. Linda strives to integrate her own Christian faith with the world's diverse spiritual teachings and to help the world heal from its history of religious abuse.
"Elmina's Fire grabbed me from the start and held on. This is the story of a young woman's search for spiritual truth. When she leaves her Cathar family to follow the man who would become St. Dominic, she must confront not only her internal demons but ultimately the external horrors of the Abigensian Crusade. More than once while reading I felt myself holding my breath. Linda Carleton has written Elmina's story so close to the bone, it has the feel of memoir-more remembered than imagined."
-Joan Lee Hunter, Writing Coach, Fifth House Lodge, Bridgton, ME
"With Elmina's Fire, Linda Carleton has succeeded in recreating the challenges of an important if little-known period of the High Middle Ages. In telling her compelling story of desire and the human condition, she captures the world of the medieval Catharism as well as the portentous events that were destined to shape the modern world. If you have ever wanted to understand the world of the Cathars, and what happened to it, you cannot do better than read Elmina's Fire."
-James McDonald, Cathar Historian, St-Ferriol, France
"In Elmina, Linda Carleton has given us a most unusual heroine: a humble young woman of the Crusades, whose epic struggles with her past actions, her faith, her convictions, and the mysterious demons that plague her follow her into a cloistered life. Elmina's narrative is addressed directly to God. We are merely eavesdroppers on the most intimate of confessions, in which the stakes are life or death. In serene prose undergirded by deep historical knowledge and the passion of one who knows her subject intimately, Carleton weaves her tale like the weavers in her "Good Christian" ostal, a tapestry both terrifying and beautiful."
-Katherine Czepiel, author of A Violet Season
"In Elmina's Fire, Linda Carleton provides a captivating and detailed chronicle of a young woman's story as she struggles with envy and guilt and chooses a religion to embrace-a story based centuries ago in a medieval French town. Linda invokes the reader's deep compassion from the start as if it were Linda's memoir. She eloquently walks us through Elmina's inner rivalry between good and evil from the opening, and carries the reader side by side through the journey to Elmina's final move."
-Rebecca Whitehead Munn, author of The Gift of Goodbye: A Story of Agape Love
"A sparkling, spiritual gem of a tale that splendidly illuminates the searing soul-searching of Cathars and Catholics in medieval Languedoc. Carleton's achievement makes historical fiction a retelling of history and a discovery of self."
-Stephen O'Shea, author of The Perfect Heresy and The Friar of Carcassonne
"Both historical and contemporary, esoteric and intensely human, Elmina's Fire invokes an awareness of our immortal connection to the past, and the need to question the inconsistencies birthed through years of repressed questioning. This book is a true work of art that captures the yearning of every spiritual aspirant who confronts the relationship between devotion and desire, wisdom and love, past and future."
-Rev. Richard Burdick, Unity North Atlanta
"An inherently fascinating, unfailingly entertaining, consistently engaging novel from cover to cover, Elmina's Fire reveals author Linda Carleton's genuine flair as a novelist for original and deftly crafted storytelling."