The title alone intrigued me: Fatherless.
From a Catholic perspective “Father” becomes a multi-dimensional word that can encompass the role of pastor, biological father, care-giving father and Heavenly Father — at the very least. Then to imagine any of these roles in a way that would constitute the “less” part of the title, well, I was anxious to get answers to my questions and so approached Brian J. Gail’s novel with gusto.
Halfway through the 540 page work, I began to see that no “wrapped up in a bow” resolutions to all the masterfully interconnected lives and events were forthcoming. I remember having a bit of a panic as I continued to read and started thinking to myself, how am I going to write a review of this book?
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Fatherless is, at its core, a story about hope. Even though none of the situations resolve themselves in a way to give credibility to what I’ve just written, I can see how Fatherless is really a story about hope. But this can only be said if one understands hope to be something placed in the eternal not in the tangible, if one is able to see that hope rests in what is possible and not in what “is.” In that way, Fatherless is completely about hope; it is abundantly clear that hope ought never to be in man but rather in God.
Which seems a bit dishearteningly on the face of it, but Fatherless makes a point of identifying what Gail told me in a subsequent conversation is the “default” position: man is accountable and must always do the right thing. Furthermore, in doing the right thing, man cannot count on earthly rewards.
And there’s the rub; man, in his fallen nature, more or less always seeks some sort of earthly rewards for his efforts. But Gail never aims to dupe the reader into believing that “happily ever after” is a real state of being.
Brian Gail has earned the right to be determined in his message; his own life is quite a testament to holding one’s ground and staying true to a belief system even in the midst of personal tragedy and professional upheavals.
I thoroughly enjoyed a hour time with Brian; it certainly became much more of a conversation than an interview. We talked and I filled pages with notes as Brian is an intelligent, articulate and passionate man with a message — a message he begins in Fatherless and will complete in the additional two books that are part of a trilogy published by Father Euteneuer’s Human Life International. Motherless is the second book, due out in October, and at some future point in time the third, called Childless, will arrive on the scene.
Gail does nothing to hide his disapproval of the way the Catholic Church’s hierarchy has been nearly silent on many issues beginning with the introduction of the birth control pill and its evil consequences and continuing with the disparity between magisterial truths and the ways in which those truths are bent to accommodate personal beliefs. But don’t get me wrong, Brian Gail handles his criticisms of the Church’s ministers well and each character in his book is completely credible. When Gail writes an exchange between a parish priest and a member of the frustrated flock, you feel it is a conversation you might very well have had — or have wanted to have. Gail’s own years of experience in the cable industry and in the pharmaceutical industry lend themselves well to his creating scenes of meetings and behind-the-door conversations that are alarmingly real in both the words chosen and their covert nature. In talking with Gail I had to ask where the line between fiction and non-fiction ran because it was such an invisible delineation.
Fatherless is the sort of book that is difficult to pigeonhole. It is at once a work of fiction but so filled with elements of reality that it becomes a lesson, of sorts. There is a darkness evident in its honest representation of our fallen nature and there are definitely circumstances that will leave the reader yearning for “tied-up-in-a-bow” endings. But Gail remains true to his mission with this work: to reveal that truth and hope should only be placed in God and that man, regardless of his choices, should always remain true to his call as a baptized follower of Christ.
After speaking with Brian Gail I had the opportunity to pose a few questions to Father Tom Euteneuer who shares some insights on his role as publisher of Fatherless:
Cheryl: I have always felt a need for fiction books as a Catholic tool of evangelization and so I began Bezalel Books around 4 years ago in an effort to offer great Catholic fiction books to Catholic families. I know your efforts at HLI are the same and so I feel a kindred spirit to what you are doing here. How do you see the role of fiction books as a means of evangelization for Catholics?
Father Tom: There are many ways that we can educate people in an effort to change and convert their hearts toward living out God’s perfect plan in their lives. HLI has many tools available by way of factual pamphlets, CD’s, and other forms of educational reading. But the Catholic novel goes at it in an entirely different way — by appealing to the reader’s heart and imagination. In Fatherless, Brian Gail has done something very unique: Because of his own grasp on the Catholic Faith, he is able to catechize the reader through the lives and dialogue of the characters. The story lines pull in the reader like a good movie, and then he presents the truth. He does this in a way that readers learn and self-evaluate at the same time. This, combined with the factual documentation that is provided in the book, is what makes Fatherless such a great evangelization tool.
Cheryl: Why did you choose to specifically bring Fatherless to HLI and what do you hope to accomplish with this book; what message do you want to deliver in a new way? And do you see this as the start of a major development of Catholic fiction in the future?
Fatherless is a perfect fit for HLI’s Mission, which is why we are so pleased to be the exclusive publisher and distributor. Reader feedback has shown us that this Catholic novel has been successful in catechizing the reader via a powerful page turner that is very difficult to put down once you begin reading it. It is our hope that it will further our mission in planting the seeds in the hearts of its readers (or reinforcing in those who already understand), the critical importance of God’s supreme rights over our lives and further reinforce the concepts of protection and respect for Life from before conception until natural death. We also see Fatherless as a new way to introduce young readers to the truths found in our Catholic Faith. Each of us is faced with moral dilemmas in our everyday life. Fatherless successfully displays this along with the consequences of making the wrong choices that are not of God. There is no question that Fatherless has broken new ground and created new interest in “The Catholic Novel”. We wait with great anticipation for the sequel, Motherless, which is due out in the fall.
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