|April 18, 2018||Posted by admin under Fiction|
Publication date: July 2017
Review posted on: April 18, 2018
In his new book, Grace Ungiven, Jeff Kelland asks some tough questions about the Roman Catholic Church, its culture of secrecy, and its recent controversies.
While Kelland wrestles with the demons of the Church, we see each character in the novel grapple with their own pasts, dark eras haunted by illegitimate acts under the Church’s central command, and how the struggling question of self identity can complicate the path forward. Set in small town Maine, where the Church demonstrates considerable influence over its parishioners, and the skew of power and control has been often left in the courts of the Christian kings. With the history of the Catholic Church spanning back almost two thousand years, the reader is left to wonder how the Church was able to prey on the vulnerable undetected for so long.
Kelland’s story follows a detective theme, with reporter Frank Casey silently building a case against a well loved and respected parish priest. Intertwined are stories of rebellion, of tears, and of stray from the church. From the vantage point of alter boys, examiners, abusers, and even a future Mother Superior, the sexual and perverse nature of each perspective is explored, sometimes leaving the reader dangerously uncomfortable. Even the role of the Catholic housewife is evaluated, with its encompassing expectations and crippling guilt felt behind closed doors.
It is clear that Kelland meant to take the reader for this emotional ride, as he investigates the psychosocial, spiritual and legal repercussions of early sexual abuse by those in positions of trust. His novel stars Casey’s best friend: a man broken, his life destroyed by the trauma of boyhood molestation. While the topic is difficult to consider, much is thrown in for the reader’s entertainment, plot lines of lust and distrust, advantageous secret meetings, and a priest who must go on the record amidst a promotion to Bishop.
The reader is left with a complicated choice of their own: to keep the faith and to honor the doctrine of the Catholic Church, or to stand against the criminal abuse suffered at the hands of the indicted clergymen — not a simple choice by any means. While the horrors of abuse and mental anguish of secrecy are depicted, Kelland’s novel offers a much-needed sympathetic ear to casualties of the church’s systemic pedophilia, and in so doing delivers a prism of surprise endings for both victims and abusers.
Visit the author’s website here for more information about this book.
Mo Duffy Cobb is the author of Unpacked: from PEI to Palawan. Her essays have been published in The Rumpus, Literary Mama, Understory Magazine and more. She is the founder and Editor of Cargo Literary, a digital imprint that publishes transformational travel experiences. She lives in Prince Edward Island, Canada, and is currently a questionable Catholic. https://moduffycobb.com/