Set in the 1980s and '90s, this novel takes place in the Philadelphia, PA area. It chronicles the story of several families within a parish, as well as one of the parish priests ministering there.
Any particular era faces its own spiritual battles, and this one is no exception. The families that Father John encounters are enduring some of the typical temptations that all families face--and then some. The fathers in two of these families must make choices about earning their livelihood by working in an industry they find immoral. It was interesting to follow the very different paths each of these men took in their struggle with this issue. Another family struggles with a child whose problems are so deeply-rooted that they wonder whether she is mentally ill or even demonically possessed.
Meanwhile, the parish priest notices that some of the most faithful families within the parish are walking away and finding spiritual nourishment at a different (also Catholic) parish. This, along with the difficulties that the families above have asked him for guidance with, leads him to his own crisis of faith. He is an idealistic young priest (yet orthodox, unlike many "young priests" in novels) and struggles with questions of how he can best minister to the many different needs of the people in his congregation. He makes mistakes, but not out of malice--rather, those mistakes come more from inexperience.
I relish the chance to read a good novel, and Brian Gail did not disappoint with Fatherless. But my guess is that the target audience of this novel is rather narrow. This is the sort of book that "preaches to the choir," so to speak. If you're not ready to accept certain practices as immoral, you won't relate to the characters in this book. I wouldn't recommend this novel to someone with a different level of belief, hoping to change their hearts. For a faithful Catholic reader who would like a novel who speaks to their faith, this book is an excellent choice.
I wrote this review of Fatherless for the Tiber River Blogger Review program, created by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. For more information and to purchase, please visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.
Tiber River is the first Catholic book review site, started in 2000 to help you make informed decisions about Catholic book purchases.
A review copy of the book was provided to me. I did not receive other compensation for this review