Friday, December 28, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas & New Year Opening Times

24th December: Open from 9am (one hour earlier) until 5pm (closing one hour earlier). (We won’t be closing for lunch)

25th & 26th: CLOSED

27th, 28th and 29th : Open as normal, from 10am – 6pm

(closed for lunch between 1pm and 2pm)

30th, 31st & 1st January: CLOSED

Please note that from January 2nd until Easter we will be closing at 1pm on Saturdays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Night Train to Lisbon

“When, one afternoon, mild-mannered, middle-aged Classics scholar Raimund Gregorius walks out of his class while in the middle of giving a lesson, his impulsiveness surprises him as much as it does his students. This break from his usually predictable routine is inspired by two chance encounters earlier that morning – the first with a mysterious Portuguese woman, and the second with a book discovered in a forgotten corner of an old bookshop, containing the thoughts of an enigmatic Portuguese aristocrat. With the book as his talisman, Mundus finds himself boarding the night train to Lisbon: who was this man whose words both haunt and compel him?”- text from back cover

Price: 10,50€ - Buy here

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Books for Christmas

If you're thinking books for Christmas request our free catalogue for inspiration on what to get your loved ones!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Literary Event - Thursday, 15th November, 2007

Eça de Queiroz

Considered one of the greatest novelists of the 19th century José Maria Eça de Queiroz, or simply Eça de Queiroz as he is better known, was born in 1845 in Póvoa de Varzim, a small fishing town, as the illegitimate son of a prominent magistrate.

Author of several novels, most translated into English, Eça published great works of literature, some of which would not go into print until after his death in 1900. Among others The Maias, one of his best known novels, was written during his 15 years working as a consul in England, a country he often analysed as fiercely as he did his own.

A great observer and a critic, Eça’s writing is stylish but not heavy. With a great dosage of humour and a pinch of cynicism, his novels and texts are far from belonging in the past. While reading his work one realises, almost shockingly, that the past is still happening today.

Find out more

On November 15th 2007, Dr. Ana Luísa Vilela, a lecturer at the University of Évora will be at the Hotel Garbe to unveil the author behind the books. Holding a doctorate in Portuguese Literature and having specialised in Queiroz's work, Dr. Ana Vilela has published various articles about this author in Portugal and abroad.

This is a great opportunity for everyone who wants to take a closer look at Portugal and its society: looking at the past to understand the present. For those of you who are already familiar with Eça’s works – and many books have been sold here in the Algarve – this is an excellent opportunity to learn a bit more.

Times as follows:

10.30am: Introduction and documentary about Eça de Queiroz

12.30pm: Lunch

2pm: Talk about Eça's life and work followed by time for discussion and questions.

Ticket Price: 34€ (includes lunch) - available from Magna Carta Bookshop
Tel. 282 496 001
**Booking in advance is necessary.
Please book your place at the event by 5th November.**

See available books by Eça de Queiroz here

Tigger On The Couch

- The Neuroses, Psychoses, Maladies and Disorders of Our Favourite Children's Characters

I love this book. OK, that makes me a bit suspicious...but yes, I loved "being on the couch" to find out if I can identify myself with any of my favourite childhood characters, and as it turns I can. I happen to have the same issues as my favourite cartoon...Ha, won't tell!

This book by Laura James, is a highly amusing take on self-help and psychological disorders providing an insightful and acute analysis of children's favourite characters' mental health. Tigger is diagnosed with hyperactivity, Winnie Pooh clearly has addiction issues and the Wizard of Oz was undoubtedly a narcissist...
If you'd like to know if you're Peter Pan, Piglet or perhaps Alice in Wonderland, or perhaps someone else, click here to buy this book.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Don't bin your old socks!

An endearing and delightful guide to making soft toys from cast-off socks and gloves. It includes thirteen projects that are quick to make with step-by-step illustrations and instructions. With appeal to both adults and children the creations include monkeys, elephants, piglets, bunnies and fish from a world expert in the craft.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult -- Book Trailer

I love can now even watch book trailers! I found this one by Jodi Picoult, one my favourite authors, so I thought of sharing and perhaps entice you to read this one.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Every single one of our customers who purchased "The Kite Runner" ,by the same author of "A Thousand Splendid Suns" ,told me it was the best book they had ever read, and that I must read it too!
I must admit I was a little bit put off by the subject matter. It was obvious it wasn't going to be a cheerful read. We have all been inundated with images of war and death in Afghanistan in the last few years, so it wasn't difficult to recoil at the thought of reading in detail about what went on in that country, that led to recent events.

Eventually, I decided to give "The Kite Runner" a go and it was one of the very few books I've read that grabbed my attention from page one.

Today I finished reading "A Thousand Splendid Suns". If it's in any way possible, Hosseini's second novel is even better than the first. Whereas "The Kite Runner" tells the story of Afghanistan from men's perspective, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" tells it from women's point of view. Khaled Hosseini is a storyteller. One that grips you emotionally. There aren't any dull pages.
It's through the eyes of Mariam and Laila, and their life tragedies, that we learn about life in a country torn by war. And it is amidst this climate of violence, loss and religious fundamentalism that we discover, as we read on, that in the end most of us dream about the very same things: peace, love and freedom. It is impossible, as we turn the last page on the book, not to spare a special thought to women who have endured the hurt of not being able to simple being...

I am choosing to tell you more about my feelings about the book than about the plot itself. I don't want to give more away than you need to know. And all you need to know is that this an excellent book, one to keep, one whose characters will remain with you long after the book is put away on the shelf.


Thursday, July 26, 2007


Dr. Michael S. Gerber, author of Sweet Teeth and Loose Bowels: The Adventures of an International Aid Worker and a resident of Portimao recently returned from a visit to the Philippines. Following are some of his comments about the trip:

“I just returned from a short one-week visit to the Philippines. Since 1999, I have been a member of the Board of Trustees of an international charity, IIRR, the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction and for the past five years, have served as Chairman of its Board. IIRR is headquartered on a beautiful 54-acre campus in Silang, Cavite Province, about a one-hour drive south of Manila.

It has been said that getting there is half the fun. Well, that doesn’t work if you live in southern Portugal and have to travel half way around the world. Reaching Manila means catching a 6:15 am flight from Faro airport to Lisbon, then connecting to London’s Heathrow, followed by a third flight of 12-13 hours from London to Hong Kong, and finally getting on the fourth plane for the last leg to Manila. About 30 hours after leaving home, you touch down in the Philippines. Fortunately, the connections are convenient – no more than about two and a half hours between each flight. Even more fortunate, my suitcase arrived at the same time I did, also having made all four connections.

Returning to the Philippines is always a happy occasion, having first served there with my family as Peace Corps volunteers in the early 1970s. The purpose of this trip was to participate in an international conference that IIRR was hosting on the subject of rural enterprise development. It was my privilege as Chair to make the opening remarks and introduce the keynote speaker, former President of the Philippines, Corazon Aquino. After her husband, Senator Benigno Aquino, was assassinated in 1983, Mrs. Aquino led the opposition that eventually ended the dictatorship of then President Ferdinand E. Marcos . She was elected as Asia’s first woman President and served from 1986-1992.

The only sad note was that with the close of these meetings, my term as Chairman of IIRR’s Board came to an end. I will, however, remain involved with the organization as a Special Advisor for Africa. I have also agreed to take on another project, helping a group of bright young people from Mexico start a new NGO that will try to help alleviate poverty among the rural poor in that country.

Seven days later, at about two o’clock in the morning, I was home in Portimao. With delays and bad weather, the 30-hour trip turned into 37 hours. But I was back on the tennis court by 10:00 am the same morning. The only problem is that with jet lag, you usually see three tennis balls instead of one and it is a real challenge to figure out which one to hit.”

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Just before midnight...

At around 11:30pm we decided to open the door to let some cool air into the shop. Instead we had a rush of people coming in. The road outside is poorly lit so it looked as if a crowd suddenly materialised before our eyes.

Kids, of course, were impatient and with half an hour to go I was happy I printed the "Harry Potter: puzzles & quizzes" from Bloomsbury's web site. This kept them busy until 00:01.

I managed to take pictures while everyone was waiting but didn't get the chance to get any of the crowd with their much waited "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows" copies . As you can imagine, after midnight it was hard to keep up...but more photos will follow from the "Witches & Wizards Breakfast" at the Hotel Garbe.
If you purchased your copy of "Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows" from our shop while on holiday in the Algarve, please send us your photos holding your book to: Photos will be published in our blog.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Witches & Wizards Breakfast

Join us at the Hotel Garbe, Bar Boa Vista on July 21st, from 9am - 1pm

Buy your "Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows" and treat yourself to a wicked breakfast

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

==Special Breakfast Menu ==

Buterbeer Milkshakes - 3,50€

Liquorice Wands - 0,50€

Calming Teas - 2,00€

Cauldron Cake - 1,50€

Pumpkin Pasties - 2,00€

Coffee with milk - 2,00€

Fresh Orange Juice - 2,80€

Toast with butter - 2,50€

Hot chocolate - 2,00€

Pancake with honey or lemon and sugar - 2,50€

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

**Be among the first 20 people to buy your copy of the seventh Harry Potter book and win a Genuine Feather Quill.

**Participate in the Harry Potter Look-alike contest - the best will win a Harry Potter Replica Wand.

**Book also available at 00:01, July 21st, from the shop and during the day from 10am.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Harry Potter Party!

To celebrate the release of the seventh Harry Potter book Magna Carta Book Shop in Alvor is holding a Wizards and Witches Breakfast on the 21st July from 9,00 am to 1.00pm in the Bar Boa Vista of the Hotel Garbe. As well as buying your edition of this much awaited book, you will be able to enjoy a breakfast fit for Wizards. Dress up– prize for the best Harry Potter look-alike. Also we will be anouncing the winners of the Portugal Resident competition. Please contact Susana at Magna Carta to reserve your copy of the book now (for collection on 21st July). Tel/Fax: (+351) 282 496 001

Friday, June 01, 2007

WOULD YOU like to read the most anticipated book of the year for free?The Resident, in association with Magna Carta in Alvor, is offering two students a copy of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows.
Tells us, in no more than 150 words (English or Portuguese), who is your favourite character and why, and the best two entries will win a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book. Entries will only be accepted from students aged between eight and 16.
Submit your work to The Resident/Harry Potter Competition, at Rua Visconde de Lagoa, nº2 e 3, 8400-329 Lagoa, at email or fax 282 342 939, no later than June 22. Watch this space to find out if you are a winner and to know more about the big Harry Potter day on July 21!



GOSTAVAS DE GANHAR uma cópia do livro mais esperado do ano?

O jornal “The Resident”, em associação com a livraria Magna Carta em Alvor, está a oferecer a dois estudantes uma cópia do “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”.
Diz-nos em não mais de 150 palavras (em Inglês ou Português), quem é a tua personagem preferida e porquê. As duas melhores respostas vão receber o 7º e último livro na série do Harry Potter completamente grátis. Aceitam-se participações de alunos entre os 8 e os 16 anos.

Enviem o vosso trabalho para The Resident/Harry Potter Competition, Rua Visconde de Lagoa nº2 e 3, 8400-329 Lagoa ou por e-mail para , ou ainda pelo fax nº 282 342 939, até ao dia 22 de Junho. Fica atento(a) ao The Resident para mais novidades sobre o lançamento do livro Harry Potter e descobre se foste um(a) dos felizes contemplados.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Book Signing, this Saturday May 26!

As a relief to the sombre academic literature on issues related to developing countries in Africa and Asia, this book takes a critical but light-hearted look at the international aid industry. It follows the author’s career from a youthful “do-gooder” in the Philippines to Director General of the Kenya based African Medical & Research Foundation (AMREF) and its renowned Flying Doctor Service.

Topics covered include the Peace Corps, debt relief, the aid business, health, food and cultural practices, among many other subjects. Tales from Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Philippines, India and additional countries form the backdrop to this entertaining, critical and eye-opening book.

The author will be donating all royalties he receives from sales of this book to a charity - The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR).

If you’re unable to make it on Saturday you may still purchase the book online (click here) or reserve a copy by telephone or e-mail. (Please let us know if you’d like it signed by the author).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Budapest book launch, by Dr. John Piper

The Budapest Launch of my novel Motherkillers was held in the Library of the University Institute on the West bank (Buda) of the River Danube. The room is a magnificent high ceilinged elegant nineteenth century venue lined by beautiful carved wooden cupboards containing treasured volumes, some of which are over 500 years old.

Odete and I were greeted by the Chief of the Library Dr Laszlo Magyar who showed us some of his treasures while the guests were arriving. Copies of the book were on sale and sold well, among those present were the Hungarian contributors acknowledged at the beginning of the novel. They had already received signed copies and had read them.

The Meeting was chaired by Dr Benedek Varga deputy director of the Semmelweis museum and he also did the translating for those who did not speak English. Most of the discussion focussed around Semmelweis’ mental condition and my views expressed in the book were supported. I read that portion of the book in which Semmelweis and Kolletchka discussed hand washing. The Professor of the history of medicine spoke at length on this subject. The novel was well received.

We were presented with a signed portrait of Semmelweis in later life, some beautiful pottery and a miniature 1861 copy of Semmelweis book on childbed fever written in German. Dr. Susan Turi, the head of Obstetrics at the Saint Rochus Hospital gave me a card in which she wrote “ I feel this masterpiece covers a wide gap which should have been done much before; anyway at last we have it”
(pictured above: Ignaz Semmelweis, 1/7/1818 - 13/8/1865)

Look into my eyes!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Missing since 3rd May 2007. Can you help?

Madeleine McCann was last seen in Praia da Luz (Algarve, Portugal) on thursday May 3rd while she was on holiday with her parents.
If you have any information about her whereabouts please contact Polícia Judiciária (PJ) in Portugal on (+351) 282 405 400 or (+351) 289 884 500.

Monday, May 07, 2007

And here is our brand NEW shop...

It's only next door from where we were before, you can't miss us...

Friday, May 04, 2007

Our e-mail is OK again. Thank you.
We are currently experiencing problems with our main e-mail address. Until further notice please use
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sweet Teeth and Loose Bowels by Michael S Gerber

Against a backdrop set in countries such as Somalia and Ethiopia, it is packed with humourous and sceptical accounts of topics including life as a 'do-gooder' in the Peace Corps, corruption, debt relief, African governments, refugees, transportation, food and disparities between extreme wealth and poverty.

In the 1970's Dr. Michael S Gerber was selected to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer, living in the Philippines with his wife and three young sons and surviving on £110 a month. Twenty eight years later, having lived and worked in many of the poorest countries in Africa and Asia, he retired as a Director General of the Kenya-based African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) - the largest non-governmental health organisation on the African Continent. It also operates the world famous Flying Doctors.

One morning, on the outskirts of Nairobi, a Kenyan policeman stopped a driver at the side of the road. "Sir, you committed a crime. When you passed that lorry, your vehicle crossed a solid white line." The road in question was a single carriageway full of pot holes, with no markings on it, white or otherwise. The poorly paid police would receive wages at the end of the month, if at all. Invisible white lines were a good way to shake down motorists for extra cash. One should have known better than to cross an invisible white line, as the month was coming to a close.

About the author: Since 1968, Dr. Michael S Gerber has been involved in some of the least developed countries around the world. Now retired, he donates his time as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), a non-governmental organisation working in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He lives in Portugal with his wife.

**A book signing session will take place at Magna Carta Bookshop on Sat May 26, between 11AM-1PM.**

The author will be donating all royalties he receives from sales of this book to a charity - The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Author of "On Chesil Beach" faces heavy fine after "borrowing" some pebbles off the beach he used as background for his new novel of the same name. Read more here...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Top Islands of the World (Various Authors)

It's like browsing photos of paradise and then find out that the glorious eden can be found, here on earth! This beautifully illustrated book, contains photographs of paradisiacal islands throughout the world, including Europe and the Mediterranean, Africa and the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific, and the Caribbean and North America.

Far from being a tourist guide, this large format book is more suitable for your coffee table, where it can be easily reached and browsed (and you'll never tire of turning the pages on this one!). Every island is described with visual and text detail, including its history, the atmosphere (including the smells, the sounds, the people), what to expect in terms of tourism (is it busy or is it relatively unexplored) and of course, whereabouts it can be found on the planet (with the help of a map).

Unsuprisingly, the beautiful island of Madeira here in Portugal is one of the many chosen by the various authors who compiled this book. "Portugal may have owned Madeira for the best part of five centuries, but the British have been residents for three and have been such a weighty presence that, at times, Westminster viewed Madeira more as a colony than as foreign territory", says Rodney Bolt regarding this Portuguese island.

Another interesting fact regarding Madeira is that "A glass of Madeira sealed the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, it was the favourite tipple of Shakespeare's cherry drunkard Falstaff, and is still used to toast anyone offered the Freedom of the City of London", also according to the same author.

On the last pages of "Top Islands of the World" you will find a directory with what there is to do in each of the 27 islands presented, and the official tourism boards contact and web sites.
If you're stuck for ideas on what to buy for someone special, or if indeed what you're looking for is a perfect holiday, this book will not disappoint.

The Top Islands of the World can be purchased for 45,00€ click here to buy

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More on "The Secret"


If you are not satisfied with your current life,
if you would like to do better but can´t
see any opportunities, if you are worried about
your future security, then you MUST see the Secret.
The Secret can make all the difference to your life

17th of March, 2007 15 h to 17.30 h

Nova Vida, Tunes

Price: 8 €

Please book until 10th of March

Seminar :

„ Law of Attraction“

given by Dr. Veronica Mauvis

14th of April 2007, 10 h to 16 h

at Nova Vida, Tunes

Price : 65,00 € incl. lunch

Have you seen The Secret?
Do you want to use The Secret to get better results in your life?
Have you tried to use it and wonder why it’s not working for you?
Will it help your children to get better results?
What is the correct way to create the Life of Your Dreams?
The Secret is the film that has been spreading round the world like a bush fire because it opens the door to the real secrets of success all over the world.
It is possibly the most powerful, scientifically backed, method of personal development ever discovered. You need this knowledge to get what YOU want in all areas of your life.
If you want changes to your financial status, your relationships, your health you will find answers book for the seminar

Please book until 6th of April 2007
Angela Schulz-Henke
OrgaNice Eventmanagement

Apartado 2016, Gil Eanes
P-8501-902 Portimão

tel. +351 282 181 604
fax +351 282 181 606
tm +351 936 384 275
Magna Carta's recommended reading list for this theme:

Sunday, February 11, 2007

"The Secret" Uncovered!

23rd February 2007 Film „ The Secret“ at the CLCC in Portimão.
19.30 h – 22.00 h (organised by Angela Schulz-Henke
OrgaNice Eventmanagement)

If you are not satisfied with your current life, if you would like to do better but can´t see any
opportunities, if you are worried about your future security, then you MUST see the Secret. The Secret can make all the difference to your life …

Veronica Mauvis (English)

Vegetarian Snacks – Claudia + Marisa
Magna Carta will be participating with books concerning the film.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Book Signing with Dr. Piper

Meet Dr. Piper, the author of "Motherkillers" - out 22nd February - at the Hospital Particular in Alvor for 7pm. There will be a cocktail party where you'll have the opportunity to talk to Dr. Piper about his work and have your book signed.

Order your book from Magna Carta Bookshop before the releasing date and pay 22.50€ only (you save 3€).

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

From a local author...

“In 1845 a killer stalked the great maternity hospitals of Europe and North America … Mothers and babies were slaughtered in great suffering on a monumental scale by this mass murderer. The name given to this assassin was puerperal fever… [or] childbed fever.”

This powerful novel recounts the history of the struggle to control the devastating disease known as “childbed fever” – the horrific disease that killed thousands of women and their babies across Europe and North America.

Set in 19th Century Vienna, John Piper’s book is based on the true story of Ignaz Semmelweis, a young Hungarian obstetrician. Through the eyes of a fictional young woman (Charlotte) who is having her baby in hospital, we witness the squalor and overcrowding – and we feel the terror experienced by the mothers and mothers-to-be. Charlotte, herself, contracts the dreaded disease.

Told with passion and a meticulous eye for historical accuracy, this novel describes the appalling conditions in which doctors and nurses worked in the latter half of the 19th Century and shows how Semmelweis overcame the ignorance and bigotry in the medical profession at the time to find the cause of (and a cure for) this horrendous illness.

Dr John Piper NB, BS, FRCS was born in Essex. He read medicine at the University of London, trained in surgery at the Royal Free Hospital and worked as a consultant surgeon in hospitals in England until 1977 and then in Iran, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In 1985 he created the Department of Surgery in the new Manapo Hospital in the Black South African Homeland of Qwagwa.
Dr Piper now lives in Portugal.

MOTHER KILLERS by John Piper can be pre-ordered at Magna Carta Bookshop for 25.50€ (hardback) and will be available from 22nd February 2007.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Keeping Faity by Jodi Picoult

Reviewed by
Hayley Jones

Unlike the better-known My Sister's Keeper and The Pact, the courtroom doesn't assume a major part in Keeping Faith and even draws itself into question. How many times have you heard something along the lines of "God has no place in a courtroom?" Have you considered how strange that is, considering that witnesses are expected to swear on the Bible?

Jodi Picoult throws up all kinds of religious and spiritual questions in this novel, allowing the reader to muse over and debate them as much as the characters do. Keeping Faith certainly displays Picoult's talent for portraying complex issues without dictating to her audience.

Faith White is a normal seven-year-old girl in many respects - she loves to play on the swings and scribble with crayons - but she becomes a media attraction almost overnight when she starts, apparently, having visions of God and develops wounds that can only currently be explained as stigmata.

What makes her situation even more interesting is that Faith knows nothing about religion, let alone Christianity. Her mother, Mariah, is a non-practicing Jew and her father a non-practicing Episcopalian: Faith has never seen a Bible, yet she quotes verses from it.Mariah can hardly believe this is happening, but she knows her daughter's not a liar and she is extremely concerned about the psychological and physical symptoms that Faith is displaying. Her priority is Faith's safety, which is difficult to take care of when a range of cult members, TV crews and sick people hoping for Faith to cure them are camping on their driveway.

One person particularly determined to prove that Faith is a fraud is Ian Fletcher, a tele-atheist who is determined to prove that all religious 'miracles' are fakes and ends up getting more involved than he means to...Mariah is still reeling from her divorce - initiated by her husband, Colin, after she and Faith catch him in the bedroom with another woman - and insult is added to injury when Colin announces that he wants custody of Faith. Mariah not only has to face criticism from the media, but also a very public trial that sees Colin dragging up darker times in her past in order to prove that she is harming Faith and somehow causing the hallucinations.

Trust is a major issue in Keeping Faith. Particularly poignant for me was seeing how Mariah's past gets thrown up and used against her, even though she's now a very different person, allowing Colin to betray her even further. It questions whether skeptics are objectively in pursuit of the truth or whether they simply can't let themselves trust and have faith. You may even find that you question your own beliefs and opinions - another thing that Picoult is skilled at.
I never thought I'd read a novel that incorporates religious ecstasy, mental illness and potential child abuse, but it actually works really well. It's different from Picoult's other novels and, despite first being published in 1999 in the US (2006 in Britain), it's every bit as accomplished as her later novels. The writing is strong and heartfelt, managing to portray Mariah with both vulnerability and Lioness-style protectiveness.

Although Mariah and her family are extremely 'normal', I think this is necessary, as too flamboyant or unique a character would seem unbelievable. Mariah is certainly more 'human' than a lot of Picoult's female protagonists. Picoult also flirts with the notion of 'unreliable narrator', which creates the opportunity for further debate and is done subtly and cleverly, so it's up to the reader to decide which of the characters - if any - to believe.

I think that Mariah is one of the most fully-formed, realistic characters that Picoult has written and Keeping Faith is certainly refreshingly different. Even if you hate Picoult's other novels, I recommend that you give this a try: it doesn't conform to the formula in several of her other novels and it's not so reminiscent of a courtroom drama. I also think this is the kind of book you will either love or hate and I'm happy that, for me, it's the former. Whether you're an atheist, a militant believer or (like most of the characters) an agnostic, there is little to upset you here as long as you read it with an open mind.

Picoult is careful not to tread on too many toes, although she doesn't sacrifice story for political correctness. Unlike many contemporary authors, who focus on family and relationships and little else, Picoult isn't afraid to study the major issues that dramatically affect these relationships. Stigmata and religious visions are unusual topics to address, but Picoult pulls it off without it seeming too unrealistic and with a lot of flair.