The Sacred and the Profane

William Michaels, Author St. Martin's Press $18.95 (474p) ISBN 978-0-312-00066-0
Altoona, Pa., in the late '60s is the scene of this fast, gutsy, unsubtle novel about the priesthood and its pitfalls. Father Alex Stribling, an angel-faced young priest who doubts his vocation, and wealthy Alice Kinsella, flashing her naked body at Alex in the confessional, are the principal protagonists. Power-mad Alice hungers to manipulate the Catholic hierarchy, which includes her brother the bishop, and to destroy all priests. Dubbed the ``dragon lady,'' Alice behaves like a force of allegorical malevolence in league with the devil. But her seductive tactics tempt Alex to rage rather than lust. His sexual initiation is brought about by Nikki Albrecht, the daughter of the rectory housekeeper. Nikki carries her own burden of guilt for letting her retarded baby sister drown while dallying incestuously with her twin, Frank. Blackmail, alcoholism, wife-battering, a botched abortion, a suicide, keep the plot steamrolling, though the characterization is blunt enough to have been honed with a hacksaw. Michaels is at his best when revealing the ``Roman collar club'' in heated parley, especially when intellectual/activist Father Schmidt tells Alex why the Vietnam war must be denounced from the pulpit. Admirers of Andrew Greeley will feel at home in Michaels's world. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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