Surely there is no criminal more universally hated than a pedophile unless it's a pedophile who is also a priest. In this novel, Jennifer Haigh explores the ramifications of faith in the contexts of both religion and family. The title is stunningly appropriate as the story unfolds in heart-wrenching detail when an already dysfunctional family reveals closely-held secrets. I have been a fan of Jennifer Haigh's writing since I read her debut novel. She has continued to hone her talent in thought-provoking prose that is both topical and universal.
I abandoned this book about half way through. This review is about the reason why.
The book deals with the scandal of abuse that recently surrounded the Catholic church. The narrator is not a priest affected, not a victim but the sister of a priest accused of molesting a child. That voice unfortunately made the book seem very detached and removed. I felt that telling the story using that voice made the story seem far away. The narrator became the main character which for me shifted the focus away from what the story was about.
Unfortunately, I had to walk away from the book.
Set in Boston, most of Haigh's riveting novel takes place during the clergy sex abuse crisis that exploded in 2002. A priest is accused of molesting a boy and the questions are not only did he do what he was accused of, but do his siblings, mother and parishioners still have faith in him? The story weaves back in forth through time, illuminating the priest's family history and circumstances that have let up to the charge. The language, traditions and practices of Boston's Irish Catholics are described nearly perfectly. The novel also interestingly examines different types of fathers: priests, absent fathers (Aidan's and Art's), stepfathers (Ted) and married, "traditional" fathers (Mike). Recommended.
Pertinent and discussion-worthy...
Sheila's beloved brother, Art, a much-respected Catholic priest, is accused of abusing a boy whom he had taken under his wing. Although she believes that he can't possibly be guilty of the charges against him, she has doubts when he refuses to defend himself and answer the many questions she has.
Sheila's parents and her other brother, Mike, are staunch Irish Catholics who are blindsided and humiliated by the outpouring of anger against their family and try to find some explanation for how and why this has happened.
A great family story -- love, redemption, sacrifice -- and much to discuss considering the current state of this topic in the news today.