The Bishop’s Man: Good.

      Linden MacIntyre’s The Bishop’s Man is a good read. Also timely. It came out just after Nova Scotia priest Raymond Lahey was arrested on allegations of sexual abuse. Unfortunate circumstances for a novel to be timely to be sure, but it certainly gave the reading an added resonance and urgency.

The novel’s first person protagonist, Father Duncan, is a “fixer.” He arrives in towns with a “wayward” priest and deals with the situation. To this primary narrative is added the flashbacks of Duncan’s time spent in Central America and his fraught relationship with his own father.

My only complaint comes from these flashbacks. I found the “mystery” element of them (the reader only becomes aware of what exactly happened in Central America and with Duncan’s father in the last pages of the novel) to be distracting. The influence of the protagonist’s past on his present can be mysterious, but in this narrative I felt the past was being held back for the sake of mystery alone (and perhaps to keep the reader engaged), and not to add anything to the complexity of the present. And the big “reveal” was not revelatory at all, which suggests to me that the information about Duncan’s past might better have been told from the start so that the interpenetration of past-present might be experienced by the reader, too.

That said, I did enjoy the sequencing of the novel: past and present blended together – at times, almost indistinguishably such that it took several paragraphs to locate the action “in time.” I also enjoyed the contemporary plot and the relationships among Duncan and the town people. If you enjoy mystery-for-the-sake-of-mystery, and even if you don’t, this novel is worth the read.

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Fiction, Prize Winner

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