Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Perhaps best known for the Booker Prize-winning Schindler's Ark, released here as Schindler's List and later adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, Australian novelist Keneally's literary career spans six prolific decades and more than 30 novels. This book harkens back to both a theme in his first novel, The Place at Whitton, and to his career path before becoming a writer: the Catholic priesthood. The novel opens with Father Frank -Docherty in a cab, returning to his hometown of Sydney, Australia, to visit his elderly mother after being sent to Canada for his outspoken views. A terse and confrontational conversation with the cab driver uncovers a sexual abuse scandal centered on the church's revered defender, Monsignor Leo Shannon. As -Docherty identifies the victims and reveals the truth, he begins challenging a hierarchy and power structure that has sanctified and defined his own existence. VERDICT Through the mind of his aggrieved and conflicted protagonist, Keneally pens an unflinching meditation on the ways in which canonical scripture, sacred tradition, and human conscience often coalesce to distort basic moral truths. [See Prepub Alert, 5/15/17.]-Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., -Hamilton, NY © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The scandal involving the sexual abuse of children by the clergy of the Catholic Church in Australia fuels this well-intentioned if oddly passive novel by the author of Schindler's List. Set in 1996, the story follows likeable and intelligent Father Frank Docherty, exiled to Canada decades earlier for his liberal political views, who returns briefly to Sydney to see his aging mother and deliver a speech on the relationship between celibacy and child abuse. Coincidentally, the woman who drives his cab from the airport was abused as a girl by "smarmy" Monsignor Leo Shannon (the brother of a woman, Maureen, with whom Docherty was once tempted to break his vows of chastity). So was another young man who recently committed suicide, Docherty discovers. The novel moves awkwardly among scenes from Docherty's earlier life, a case history of the cab driver, the memories of Maureen, and the present building of a case against Monsignor Shannon. While the subject matter is timely and relevant, and Keneally makes a clear distinction between the virtues of the "misrepresented and abused" Jesus and the "apparatchiks of the Church," the novel comes across as closer to essay than effective narrative. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Father Frank Docherty is no stranger to controversy. As a young Australian priest, he was banished to Canada because of his political views on apartheid and Vietnam. But when he returns to visit Australia in the late 1990s, he finds his research into how the Catholic Church has handled cases of sexual abuse leading him to the victims of a priest he knows, and into a dispute that gets to the very heart of morality and faith. The celebrated author of novels including Schindler's List (1982) and The Daughters of Mars (2013) has crafted a nuanced exploration of the people victims, clergy, and laity at the heart of the scandal that has rocked the church and its followers. Keneally, who as a young man had studied for the priesthood, ventures deep into ecclesiastical territory, such as the 1968 letter from the pope on birth control, while building a comprehensive portrait of the different experiences his various characters have had with the church. The result is stunning and heartrending, a work of fiction that has the terrible ring of truth.--Thoreson, Bridget Copyright 2017 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
The sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in Australia gets a sensitive but uneven treatment by the author of Schindler's List.From the moment Father Frank Docherty returns to Australia in 1996 after a long absence, he is embroiled in controversy. The woman driving his cab angrily refuses money when she learns he is a cleric. Docherty, a psychologist studying abusive priests, thinks she is part of the "enlarging rage now loose in the world" as cases have begun to emerge publicly. He finds out that she is a former victim and an ex-nun. When a suicide note in another case names a local monsignor, Docherty must confront the priest's sister, with whom he nearly strayed from his vow of celibacy when he was younger. Australian writer Keneally (Napoleon's Last Stand, 2016 etc.) portrays the older Docherty as a man who favors caution over outrage. Even as he advises families struck by abuse, he's also trying to resume priestly work in Australia after having been banished in the 1960s for his political beliefs and doesn't want to ruffle his cardinal's feathers. Weaving through the novel is the ongoing case of a victim who refuses the church's current cash settlement and its demand of silence, thus bringing the issue to court and the press. The scenes with the church panel seeking settlementwhich includes the predatory monsignorpoint up the oily eloquence and spiritual clout brought to bear against any further undermining of an edifice already weakened by skepticism and secularism. Most painful are passages in which victims are wooed in the confessional box, a particularly cynical manipulation of youthful guilt and an awful perversion of the Catholic sacrament. Keneally's earnest effort to encompass the many legal and religious facets of this issue unfortunately results in more of an agenda than a novel. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.