Every once and a while I want to read a novel that is explicitly Catholic in it’s telling and plot and that it is not subtle, but hit you over the head Catholicism. A novel that puts itself in the Culture of Death and tells of the story of Catholics dealing with it. The novel Fatherless is very much in this camp. Though unlike many Christian novels with a message it is quite well written with interesting characters that are far from being formed by a cookie cutter or just crafted tell the message.
The title of the book extends beyond the tragedy of fatherless families in our culture, but also workaholic absent fathers, priests as fathers, and to a certain extent the bishops who as a group failed to be fathers to their flock in the cultural aftermath of Vatican II. Though the novel is not a polemic, but addresses the situation as it is. It takes place somewhere in the first years of the papacy of John Paul II and mostly centers on a parish priest and some of the men and their families in this parish. The priest is well meaning, not quite a dissident, but someone willing to let pastoral concerns override the hard sayings. One of the men work at a high level in a pharmaceutical company that makes contraceptives. Another comes to work in an ad agency for a sort of HBO. The plot involves the struggle of these men an others in coming to grip with their jobs and the moral problems involved with them and the intersection of their family in materially supporting them.
What impressed me about this novel in that while there was a lot of excellent social commentary, it was not simply a homily disguised as a plot. It was also not a Catholic drama where everything works out at the end, but a plot that surprised me at times in where it took me. When theology is involved the theology was well done and pretty much nothing involved my theological spidey-sense as something not quite right. The only area that was iffy, actually had a note inserted in the book warning that the event that had just happened and the specific prayer was problematic. At over 500 some pages it is a fairly long novel, but it kept my attention throughout and I really liked the characters and was drawn into their lives.