I've put off writing this review for weeks. Only now, when my nice little buffer of reviews is dwindling, did I force myself to just sit down and get it out. I'm a little nervous, actually, that I will not properly communicate my emotions.
Strangely, when this book first hit the blogs and went on a virtual tour, I was uninspired. It all sounded fine, but as most of you know, when you have hundreds of books vying for your time, something's gotta give. Only when Jen from Devourer of Books reviewed the audio, and said it was one of the best books she'd read in a long time, did I give it serious consideration. She is clever that way, Jen.
Synopsis: Sheila McGann grew up in a blue collar Catholic family in Boston, where fathers drink, mothers are the silent glue that holds families together, and the pride of the community is the local boy who enters the priesthood. Sheila's older brother Art was such a boy - a compassionate man dedicated to serving God and loved by his parishioners. Until one day in 2002, when he is caught up in a city-wide persecution of priests accused of molesting children in their care.
Sheila, once estranged from her family, comes back into the fold to understand what has happened, to tell us Art's story, and the story of her family that has been irreparably damaged. She tells of the paranoia, the revulsion, the denial, the suspicions, the unearthed family secrets, the innocent and the guilty.
My thoughts: "Faith is a choice". These are the words, written by Ms. Haigh, that keep echoing through my mind weeks after listening to this astounding piece of literature. All of the dusty, dark corners of that word are explored until you feel that your mind is going to implode from all the questions. Who do we trust in our lives? What would it take to abandon our faith? What is true and what is only our biases and misconceptions working against us? How much stress can a family endure before it collapses? If someone you loved were accused of these types of atrocities, who would you believe, and what lengths would you go to get at the truth?
As you work your way through the events that affected the McGanns, it is hard not to jump to conclusions, quickly deciding who is the guilty party. Again, it is unsettling how our biases take over in cases like this. But as the novel proceeds, your opinions change. With more information, we realize the damage a hasty judgement can do.
I was not raised a Catholic. I became one after I'd married my husband, a Polish cradle-Catholic. Our kids were baptised Catholic and attend a Catholic school. All of the issues that came to a head in Boston in 2002 haunt our religion nationwide to this day. But while all of the issues discussed here hit close to home for me, you neither have to be a Catholic nor be a particularly religious person to appreciate the messages. There is no brow-beating or sermonizing here. Just a powerful vehicle that inspires self-examination.
A word about the audio production: Our narrator, Therese Plummer, was a perfect selection for this book. While a new narrator for me, she is experienced in the field, and managed to project the right amount of calm and grief. Her portrayal of a blue collar Boston accent was pretty entertaining (and while I'm not the expert, it sounded spot-on). She made the experience one that I looked forward to every time I donned the ear-buds.
5 out of 5 stars