John L'Heureux, Author . Atlantic Monthly $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-87113-857-6

L'Heureux (An Honorable Profession, etc.) takes a wry but revelatory look at the connection between faith and love in his latest novel, about a charismatic, self-absorbed, 34-year-old priest named Paul LeBlanc who gets transferred out of his South Boston parish for challenging church doctrine. LeBlanc finds himself adrift in his new assignment at a tiny New Hampshire seacoast parish, but once he settles in, he develops a close relationship with the erstwhile pastor, Father Moriarty, who is dying from ALS, and also with Moriarty's caretaker, an attractive, 30ish woman named Rose. The parish is rocked when Rose's wild teenage daughter, Mandy, is pronounced dead of a drug overdose, only to wake up suddenly. LeBlanc sees the incident as the miracle that represents the hidden reason for his move to New Hampshire, but everyone else remains skeptical, and the debate is rendered moot when Mandy subsequently dies in a motorcycle accident. Grief soon turns the attraction between Rose and LeBlanc into a physical affair, and while LeBlanc instantly regrets his lapse, he continues to drift from his clerical duties when he begins seeing a beautiful, troubled parishioner named Annaka Malley. L'Heureux's strength is his ability to expose the all-too-human foibles and flaws of his outstanding ensemble cast, as he connects the dots with short, punchy scenes that instantly get to the heart of the matter. As usual, L'Heureux also looks unflinchingly at a variety of tough moral issues, balancing the serious stuff with humor in a deceptively light style that makes this book entertaining as well as challenging. The formulaic resolution to the subplot involving Malley and LeBlanc is the one minor misstep here, but, overall, this is a balanced, wise book built around the life of a priest in a time when the clerical profession is under attack from a wide array of critics. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-0-8021-4026-5
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-55584-681-7
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