By Brendan Kiely
Available now from Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)
Brendan Kiely's debut is a tough read. It is set back in the early 2000s, when the first large wave of abuse cases in the Catholic church were made public. Aidan Donovan seems like a normal spoiled rich kid. Closer to his nanny than his mother, drinking and taking drugs. But he does work at his church. And that's the source of so many of his problems.
I think one of the great strengths of THE GOSPEL OF WINTER is that it really explores why Aidan hasn't told anyone what's happening, why he wants to stay silent. He's afraid of what will happen if he tells, and being pressured by many to stay silent. He's scared and hurt and his denial is allowing him to function.
THE GOSPEL OF WINTER is also told beautifully. Many scenes take place outdoors - on beaches, golf courses, rooftops - and Kiely captures the wintry landscapes beautifully. Aidan's world is a cold one, but there are touches of warmth and beauty.
THE GOSPEL OF WINTER is a moving novel of a young man coming to terms with the sexual abuse he suffered. Moments of levity are few, mostly provided by Aidan's three new friends, one of whom has his own troubles. At the same time, it wasn't a depressing reading experience. It would make a good pairing with last year's THE NAMESAKE by Steven Parlato.