My latest review for Catholic Fiction is for a book entitled “Along the River Road” by Isaac Morris. It is a compelling read and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. The author tackles the controversial issue of priest sex abuse and, overall, I think he did a good job.
The novel begins with a screaming woman whose husband is trying to kill her. I was hooked.
Sister Margaret Donovan is a former sheriff but is now Dominican nun. Because of the lack of priests, she is the administrator of a small town parish, which for all intents and purposes is like the pastor, except she doesn’t say Mass. The current priest is in poor health, so a retired Army priest is assigned to her parish. She takes an immediate dislike to him because he’s haughty, ultraconservative and pushy. She soon suspects that he is not as ultraconservative as she thinks.
Two suicides and a murder later, Sister Margaret is torn between trying to solve the mystery of the deaths and staying true to her vows.
This is a tough issue to deal with in fiction without coming across as ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative. I suspect that the author has liberal leanings from the way he has created his characters, but he doesn’t go overboard and, as a conservative Catholic, I appreciate that.
A warning: the book is explicit in parts and, of course, the subject matter is adult/mature. Also, many of the priests in this book are involved in some sort of “indiscretion.” The abuser talks about his teachers “taking an interest in him.” A present-day bishop in the same diocese leaves because of a scandal. Another priest thinks about his “indiscretions,” and justifies that it wasn’t a big deal because they were private. These sorts of scenarios could possibly lead a few unsuspecting readers (especially young adults) to believe that most priests are guilty of some sort of indiscretion.
I also found that the second half of this book was not as well-edited as the first half (typos, grammar issues etc). As well, the Kindle edition was not properly formatted so it made for a choppy read at times.
Overall, however, I found Morris to be a talented writer and I look forward to his future books.
Copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach