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Book Review

The Undoing of Saint Silvanus by Beth Moore has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Crime scene detectives Cal, Frank and Bully process the murder of Raphael (Rafe) Fontaine, a father Jillian Fontaine never knew. After learning that her boyfriend is cheating on her, Jillian leaves her artistic and unconventional mother in San Francisco to travel to New Orleans at the expense of her grandmother, Olivia. Olivia owns and lives in a church that was made into apartments. Adella is Olivia’s personal assistant. It turns out that Adella invited Jillian to visit, without Olivia knowing.

Jillian meets those who rent rooms at her grandmother’s place, called Saint Sans. The residents are 40-year-old David; health professional Caryn; and elderly Mrs. Winsee. Jillian quickly realizes she is not welcome and leaves. Unfortunately, she has no place to go, so Adella convinces Olivia to let Jillian stay at Saint Sans for a brief time.

Jillian finds a job at Café Beignet and meets Stella, who seems friendly. In time, Jillian grows to like the other residents of Saint Sans and meets detective Cal when they both try to make friends with a stray dog. She immediately distrusts him when she learns that he is a policeman.

Bully, though he, too, is distrusted as a policeman at first, helps get a cat out of a tree at Saint Sans and stops by to check on everyone. He is attracted to Jillian and is obvious in his affection. One evening Jillian stays the night with Stella and is drugged, but nothing comes of it.

At Bully’s birthday party, Jillian does what she can to stay away from Bully. She is not comfortable with his naïve show of affection. While avoiding Bully, Jillian and Cal talk and have a dance together. They are both attracted to each other.

Wanting to leave Saint Sans, Jillian gets Stella to agree that she can live with her. Jillian accidentally finds that Stella knew Rafe and wants to exact revenge against Jillian’s family. The Fontaines won all of Stella’s family’s material possessions in a lawsuit. After losing the family money, Stella’s dad committed suicide. Stella takes Jillian to a storage facility. Someone hits Jillian on the head with a blunt object, ties her up and leaves her for dead.

Cal and his team find Jillian’s shirt at Stella’s apartment and an almost-dead Jillian at Stella’s storage unit. Bully stays with the people of Saint Sans. When he checks a suspicious car, Stella runs him down with her car. The police eventually apprehend Stella.

Jillian is in the hospital for some time, and Bully is in even longer. They both survive. Cal asks Jillian if they can see each other, but she declines because she has to figure out who she is. During this time, it is implied that Caryn may like Bully. After roughly nine months, Jillian lets Cal know that she is ready for a relationship with him.

Christian Beliefs

A church is made into apartments with a large common area, and mention is made of how the rooms must have looked as a church. The backstory tells about the first congregation of Saint Sans and follows the life of the first pastor and his family.

When Adella finds Olivia drunk and looking at photographs of Rafe, she helps her recover by reading the Bible to calm her. Adella occasionally gives Olivia a Scripture or a Bible bookmark. The funeral director tries to read Psalm 23 at Rafe’s funeral, but Olivia won’t let him.

Adella and her husband were married in a church wedding five years earlier to recommit to each other. She and Jillian work together to get all the residents of Saint Sans to Adella’s church for a Christmas program. There, Jillian accepts Christ.

At the Saint Sans Christmas Eve celebration, David recommits to following Jesus, and the whole group shares the Lord’s Supper together. Somewhere along the way, Olivia also submits to Jesus as Savior. Each starts attending church on a regular basis.

Other Belief Systems

Stella uses tarot cards to start telling Jillian’s future before Jillian passes out. Officer Sanchez, who works with Bully and Cal, sees the cards and says they stand for finances, a journey, doom, a fool, betrayal and death.

Because of what Olivia’s husband did through shady business deals, he received all of Stella’s family’s money. As a result, the family seems to live cursed lives. Stella calls curses down on the Fontaine family when she is apprehended.

Authority Roles

Olivia is cold and has never made contact with her granddaughter. She believes Jillian’s mother and Jillian caused Rafe to become an addict. Olivia loved her son and hated her husband, but she stayed with her husband. She learns to love Jillian and eventually sets up a sizeable bank account for her. After being convicted by a church sermon, she donates all her husband’s ill-gotten money from Stella’s family to charity.

Jillian’s mother cares for her daughter, but she is not maternal. She encourages her daughter to live with the man who is cheating on her so he’ll marry her. She poisons Jillian’s mind about her father and didn’t let Jillian know Rafe loved her. Instead of coming to be by her daughter’s side while Jillian was in the hospital, her mother remarries and goes on a honeymoon to France.

Adella is an outspoken Christian woman who loves God and her family. She calms her employer, Olivia, with Scripture and is the voice of reason during tumultuous times at Saint Sans. She gets Jillian to invite everyone to her church’s Christmas program and rejoices with Jillian on her conversion. She and her family are there for the residents of Saint Sans.

Those on the police department are hardworking detectives who have each other’s backs. They try to do what is right by their team and those they serve, as they face ugly scenes daily. Cal and Bully are Christians, as are Bully’s parents. Even as their son seems to be dying in the hospital, Bully’s parents take time to minister to those who come to visit.


Jillian uses the phrase “Oh my” with God’s name a few times, but Adella tells her not to take the Lord’s name in vain.

Jillian seems to be drugged or is sick at Stella’s house. Someone with a knife tries to break into Saint Sans and talks to Mrs. Winsee. Jillian cuts her foot on the knife. In a storage unit, she is hit over the head with a heavy object and is left for dead. Stella hits Bully with her car as she tries to get away.


In San Francisco, Jillian lives with the owner of the restaurant where she waits tables. When she realizes that he is cheating on her with another woman from the restaurant, Jillian steals his money and leaves. In Louisiana, she tells Adella that she might be pregnant, but she isn’t.

Mention is made that Rafe, Jillian’s father, lived with and slept with many women. Stella and Rafe had a sexual relationship. Jillian’s mother also lived with and slept with many men. By the end, her mother has remarried.

Cal and Jillian share a moment at Bully’s birthday party, but the events of the story keep them from dating. Months after Jillian has recovered, Cal asks if they can start seeing each other. Jillian refuses. Roughly nine months later, she lets Cal know that she is ready to start a relationship with him.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

18 and up


Beth Moore






Record Label



Tyndale House Publishers


On Video

Year Published





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