First Mama T and then Amy Welborn recommended Jon Hassler, so seemed worthwhile to add him to my list. I picked up a copy of North of Hope since it was the novel Amy edited for Loyola Classics.
From the first chapter I really cared about the characters. Frank, the protagonist is the lonely smart boy whose mother died of cancer when he was young, her dying wish, which the parish priest’s housekeeper will not allow him to forget, that he become a priest. Libby is the pretty new girl with whom he strikes up an unlikely friendship. Years pass, she has a series of bad marriages, he becomes a priest. They meet again when each of them has reached a crisis point. The story avoids predictability and achieves a satisfactory resolution.
I appreciated the Catholic world view that never pushes itself to the forefront of the novel but is merely a part of who the protagonist is. There is some fairly grim sexual content, violence, drug use, all appropriate for the story, but makes this a novel I’d not recommend for younger readers.
I enjoyed the first two Odd Thomas books; but the third is definitely the best one of the series. Odd Thomas has retreated from his chaotic life to the mountain fastness of a monastery. Unfortunately, he can’t escape the consequences of his supernatural ability to see dead people.
Koontz had obviously been reading a great deal of T.S. Eliot as he was writing the novel and, as Eliot is my favorite poet, one of the most pleasurable aspects of the story was the frequent literary allusions woven into the descriptive passages, paraphrases mostly of passages from The Four Quartets. Probably not even noticeable to anyone who isn’t very familiar with Eliot’s work, but I had fun recognizing the allusions such as this passage that echoes East Coker and The Dry Salvages:
When we hope, we usually hope for the wrong thing.
We yearn for tomorrow and the progress that it represents. But yesterday was once tomorrow, and where was the progress in it?
Or we yearn for yesterday, for what was or what might have been. But as we are yearning, the present is becoming the past, so the past is nothing but our yearning for second chances.
* * *
The only way back is forward, downstream. The way up is the way down, and the way back is the way forward.
Good suspense fiction with a thoroughly Catholic world view. Not, however, for the faint of heart. You may be in for some sleepless nights.
hat tip to Julie D. for making them sound so darn interesting I just had to find out for myself.
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