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Thursday, November 10, 2011



Jennifer Haigh
Harper, 2011

When her older brother Art--a Catholic priest and the popular pastor of a large suburban parish--finds himself at the center of a scandal, his younger sister Sheila McGann returns to Boston to help the family and fight for Art’s reputation. The problem is: Sheila isn’t absolutely convinced that Art is innocent of any wrongdoing.

Sheila has been estranged from her Catholic family for years, but she has always been close to her brother, Art. She and her younger brother Mike have tried to keep in touch, but Mike’s wife made it clear that she didn’t approve of Sheila, so she kept her distance. As Art struggles with his immediate ouster from the parish and relocation to a dismal apartment, Mike communicates his distrust of Art, and warns him to stay away from their family home. Gossip, innuendo, and outright lies run rampant, and Sheila despairs of every learning the truth until Mike decides to take matters into his own hands with disastrous results.

Sheila narrates a story that could be taken directly from the Boston headlines a few years ago. Her detached writing style is hard to warm up to, however, and left me only mildly interested in discovering the “truth” about Art and his accusers. We suspect, rightly, that there is more to the story than meets the eye, and while I didn’t quite guess the exact ending to the drama, I was correct in some of my assumptions. I would classify this one as mildly interesting, only somewhat compelling, and while not entirely forgettable, not something I enthusiastically recommend, either.


Other novels by this author:
Baker Towers (2005)
Mrs. Kimble (2006)
The Condition (2008)

Other titles you may enjoy:

The Priestly Sins by Andrew Greeley (2004)
Assigned to his first parish, Father Herman Hoffman witnesses child abuse in the parish rectory and reveals the situation to the local pastor, only to discover the fate of a whistle-blower.

An Act of Love by Nancy Thayer (1997)
When Linda McFarland's daughter attempts suicide and then accuses Owen McFarland's son (her stepbrother) of raping her, the happily married couple find their lives torn apart at the seams.

The Astral by Kate Christensen (2011)
The Astral is a huge apartment building in Brooklyn, which has been the happy home of the poet Harry Quick and his wife, Luz, who raised two children in their rambling top-floor apartment. However, the aging Astral's glory is beginning to fade- and as the building crumbles around him, a series of events forces Harry to face the reality of his own fractured family.

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