Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Faith, a Novel

"It was a thing I'd always known but until recently forgotten: that faith is a decision. In its most basic form it is a choice."

This is a beautifully written novel about a well-liked priest in Boston who is accused of molesting a young boy in 2002. The story is told by the priest's half-sister, Sheila McGann, against the background of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in 2002. Once she finds out about the allegations against her brother, Father Arthur Breen, Sheila comes to his aid and support. In trying to help him, however, she finds more questions than answers and must balance her trust in and love for her brother with the inevitable doubt. This is a book about faith, not necessarily religious faith, but faith in those you love.

This Irish-Catholic family is divided in its support for Art; his mother, who has always thought Art can do no wrong, cannot believe the allegations against her son the priest, but is ashamed to step foot inside the church. His brother Mike, married with two young boys, cannot face Art, and must deal with his wife's contempt for the Catholic Church. What I found most moving was the look into the loneliness and isolation of this particular priest. Many times Father Art thinks about what his life would have been like had he not entered the priesthood, or if the Catholic Church had allowed priests to marry. When he befriends and helps a needy single mother, Kath, and her son, Aidan, he finds companionship and comfort. But then somethings goes horribly wrong, accusations are made, and Father Art finds himself cast out of his church, more alone than ever. I thought the author showed a very human,, very compassionate portrayal of Father Art and the life of this priest. This isn't really a novel about sexual abuse or the Catholic Church, but about a crisis for an individual priest and his family, and the way one accusation changes the lives of so many people. It was a book I didn't want to put down, suspenseful and carefully written, giving little bits of information as Sheila discovers secrets about her brother and her family.


  1. Sounds interesting Patsi, and reminds me of the play and movie DOUBT, which I taught for a couple of years. The same kind of conflicts, the doubt, of course, those who are ready to blame, those who keep the faith, but mostly the effects of the accusations on all those who surround the priest. I am bothered by both texts which never tell us what actually happened...was there molestation or just a caring Priest. There is a big difference, I think, and that's the essential question, even more so than its effects on the priest and his family.

  2. Hi Ellen -

    I added this book to my list based on your review. Just started reading it and now can't put it down. You've cost me a couple hours of sleep each of the last 2 nights!

    Unfortunately, its hauntingly close to a situation a good friend went through. Agree with your assessment of the author's human, compassionate portrayal.

    Thanks for the great review!

    Cousin Bill