With Linden MacIntyre being one of my favourite journalists, I was thrilled to hear of his novel being honoured as the winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize for 2009. After reading the synopsis of the story, I knew it would be an uncomfortable read, but trusted in MacIntyre's reverence to make it through. I was not disappointed.
On its face this is a fictional story that in reality has been all too familiar in recent years in Boston, the maritime provinces of Canada, and more recently, in Ireland. It's the telling of the sordid and sinister tale of how men of the cloth betray the most innocent members of society to fulfill their own sexual perversions and gratification.
The Bishop's Man is a story told in spirals, as we twist and turn through past and present fluidly, giving us a clearer picture of the events that can become cloudy through space and time. It is by way of these happenings that we are presented with brutally honest characters living lives of deceit and despair. These tragically flawed people are human in their beastliness, conflicted, damaged, and eternally struggling to break the vicious cycle of pain and suffering.
At times my anger was palpable as the Bishop insisted on covering up the harsh realities of the evil-doings administered by the hands of his precious and misunderstood brotherhood, where he insisted that 'victims' were only the creations of over-active imaginations and troubled youth.
On more than one occasion I wrestled with my understanding of good and evil, and what faith means in today's modern world. I am of the mind that Catholicism and its primitive structures are in need of a revamp in respect to how the world has changed, and what we've learned about humanity along the way. For the sake of Catholics out there, I pray that they will make the changes that are needed to gain back so many members that they have lost due to their closed-mindedness and denial. As naive as some may consider it, I will always believe that faith is an important and necessary part of a happy, moral and fulfilling life.
Amidst the madness and injustice, we pause to take in the haunting and beautiful descriptions of small towns, where you can hear the fiddle and smell the sea salt lifting off the page. MacIntyre has proven to be an adoring poet in his love of the East coast and of the Gaelic and English languages. His words are profound and emotive, and I look forward to picking up his other novels with hopes of more of the same.
Just a couple of his eloquent offerings...
"The future has no substance until it turns the corner into history."
"The bay is flat, endless pewter beneath the rising moon."