Title: The Bishop’s Man
Author: Linden MacIntyre
Year of Publication: 2009
Genre Keywords: CanLit, Catholicism, Nova Scotia, pedophile priests, priesthood, scandal, sexual abuse, suicide, trauma.
Summary: Father Duncan MacAskill has spent his priesthood as “the Bishop’s man”, the priest who swoops into a parish in the wake of sex-abuse allegations, removes the offending clergyman, and attempts to set the community right in whatever way will best preserve the holy image of Mother Church. Now he’s been placed in a different role for a change: returning to his hometown on the Nova Scotia coast to be a parish priest. It’s a somewhat quieter life, in which he has a chance to reflect on some of the demons in his past: the time when he witnessed a priest’s abuse of another young man, for instance, or his experience of love and death in South America. But when he becomes close to the family of a friend from his youth, he begins to confront the consequences of his life’s work: did a priest he once moved to a nearby parish assault his friend’s troubled teenage son?
Who’ll Love It: Fans of a vivid setting, realistic action, and a delicately-woven tapestry of past and present will find this story delightful. Be warned, though: if you have trouble following stories told out of sequence, or tales in which key information is fed obliquely (and sometimes ambiguously) to the reader, you might have a hard time making sense of this subtle tale. I’m sure there are new bits and pieces I could pick up on reading the book a second time; it seems like the sort of work that would reward that. So even if you don’t have all the details straight by the last page, it’s a worthwhile journey just for the vivid portrait of life in coastal Nova Scotia. Having read the book, I felt like I had been there – and of course it doesn’t hurt that Father MacAskill spends some time in Ontario, visiting some local landmarks I see on a regular basis.
Authors Abounding: Linden MacIntyre is a frequent guest host on CBC Radio One’s The Current. It’s available for download, but I usually listen to it on the radio; CBC can tell you which frequency you’ll need to hear it on weekday mornings at 8:30 (EST).