Piazza writes vividly about hardworking women who devote their time and energy to making other people’s lives better. The result is a readable, informative look at how nuns, as flawed and human and real as they may be, also have a calling and a faith, and they use that to create change in the world. She starts with a story about Sister Megan Rice, an 80-something nun on trial for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex (she was sentenced to 32 months in jail). Piazza does a clean job of showing how Rice was always haunted by nuclear weapons (the bombing of Hiroshima was a seminal event in her life), and how, even through the hassle of court and the law, she’s serene in the fact that she’s doing the right thing.
A series of smart, thorough, magazine-style profiles, If Nuns Ruled the World is a smooth read, but suffers from its dipping into and out of the lives of these fascinating women. I wanted more — almost every nun could serve as the basis of her own book (and some have). The section about Sister Dianna Mae Ortiz, a woman who survived horrifying, unspeakable torture in 1980s Guatemala, is notably weaker for its brevity, as there’s a lack of context regarding the politics of 1980s Guatemala.
Above all, though, the book is subversive as hell (forgive me, Father?) in its exploration of the strength and power that women have found through an institution that, at times, doesn’t even support their work. There’s a lot of grit and fortitude in these nuns’ stories, and they’re absolutely inspirational regarding how faith can be a tool to do some good in the world. If Nuns Ruled the World is a little bit of a crowd pleaser and a little bit subversive, and it opened up my eyes to the everyday heroism of some amazing women.