I snapped this photograph of Pope Francis at a Wednesday audience in St Peter’s Square in September. I am probably the proudest of this photo of any I have ever taken. I still can’t believe I took it. Sometimes photographic luck does go a long way:

Pope Francis, Rome, September 2013

References to religion, and the lack thereof, do appear in the novel. However, please do not run for cover upon learning that. It is merely to note here that within the story one will find churchgoers, those who profess doubts, and outright atheism.

I felt a failure to nod to an essential self-identifier – whether belief or disbelief – was to do a disservice to these characters’ “humanity.” I believed the issue of religion could not be ignored among them any more than I could aim to pretend that the nation-state could be ignored. It just is.

Belief may be an important driver underpinning our personal identity. Or it is not. Like the book’s characters, where we each stand in that regard is intensely personal.