My latest review at CatholicFiction.net:
When I was first asked to review this book, I immediately went to Amazon to read the (very) short summary. Needless to say, I was tentative and doubtful that this would be the type of novel I would want to read…until I perused the reviews from faithful Catholics such as author Joseph Pearce, Bernardo Aparicio, publisher, and Rev. Paul Check, Executive Director of Courage International.
Admittedly, my curiosity was piqued. Before reading this novel, I had never thought much about the struggles of Catholics with same sex attraction.
Paul Gonzalo Meyer is a cradle, non-practicing Catholic. He shies away in disgust at anything Catholic. He has spent most of his life in and out of casual homosexual relationships, especially staying away from long-term serious relationships with men because “sustained intimacy was not to his liking…he liked belonging to everyone, not just one person which is to say that he liked everyone belonging to him while he himself belonged to no one.” Paul is a charming man who gets along well with both men and women. Despite his selfish lifestyle, Paul is a likeable character.
Max (Allen Martin Maxwell Jr.) is a junior partner in a law firm in Atlanta which he describes as an “exceptionally dull but lucrative business.” He and his wife, Michelle, a beautiful blonde, were high school sweethearts who have been happily married for many years. They have two children, Jake, 15 (who lives away at prep school) and Roxie, 11. Michelle works at a local art gallery, Hunter’s. Max and Michelle are living the wealthy American dream.
Paul is hired as the new executive director of Hunter’s Art Gallery. Michelle invites the new director to dinner where he has the opportunity to meet her husband (Max) and daughter as well as Michelle’s parents.
Paul’s initial attraction is to Max and Michelle’s sense of family. Max offers to help Paul in setting up legal and financial arrangements for Paul’s Spanish grandmother, who is very elderly and is suffering from intermittent dementia. As the two men begin to work together, there is a growing mutual attraction. Max has “never had a response like this to anyone before, man, woman – or child. The near touch of Paul’s hand had left him feeling breathless.”
Paul realizes that Max has never experienced same sex attraction and being “in love” with another man. Thinking that Max might be confused, Paul delays the beginning of the affair. But Paul has his own growing attraction to Max and the two eventually enter into an adulterous affair. “Paul was happy – so happy that he believed he’d never really been happy before in his whole life.”
Their feelings are intense, passionate and the two are convinced it is not based only on physicality. Eventually, they declare their love for one another. This begs the question: “Can love ever be wrong?” Throughout the story, the characters (and reader) eventually discover an answer to this question.
During this illicit affair, Max and Paul undergo major transformations. At first, Michelle doesn’t notice the subtle changes in her husband’s behavior, but the differences soon become too obvious to miss.
Paul also grows to love Max’s family as his own. Eventually, through a series of life-changing events, Paul comes to understand the truth about love. The ending is unexpected.
About same sex attraction, the Catechism says (2358): They do not “choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.” (Emphasis mine).
Dena Hunt paints a realistic and multi-dimensional portrait of the challenges of same sex attraction, which is a controversial topic. This is an outstanding book, well-written, well-researched and deeply moving. Although I’m a faithful Catholic woman married to the same man for 31 years, I found myself identifying and empathizing with all the characters. The message of this book shines through beautifully without being preachy. I literally did not want to stop reading from the moment I began this book. The characters were so real that I felt like I knew them; descriptions were not over the top, but just right. I truly felt like I was experiencing the journey along with the characters.
This novel has what every great novel should have: beautiful writing with a compelling, moving story, well-defined characters, crisp setting descriptions, brilliant narrative voice and a strong moral message. Because of the mature themes, this book is appropriate reading for adults 18 and over. I highly recommend “The Lion’s Heart” and I look forward to reading future books by this gifted novelist.
Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach