Lazarus Rising

Joseph Caldwell. Delphinium, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-883285-99-9
Caldwell (In the Shadow of the Bridge) concocts a parable of commitment and faith, complete with a divine miracle in his evocative and earnest latest. In late 1980s New York City, artist Dempsey Coates meets Staten Island firefighter Johnny Donegan while he’s on a call in Dempsey’s neighborhood. They date for a few months, but drift apart. When they are reunited in 1992, Dempsey has been through a period of drug addiction and has contracted AIDS. She has also benefited from a minor miracle in the form of a large inheritance that allows her to devote herself full-time to her current project, a painting of Lazarus. She eventually asks Johnny to pose for her, and they get engaged. Johnny’s inner turmoil about his Catholicism—the church can’t sanction the couple’s planned marriage because they practice safe sex—leads to a friendship with the empathetic priest, Father Dunphy. Johnny’s prayers for Dempsey to be cured lead to events neither Dunphy nor Dempsey’s doctor can explain. Caldwell vividly evokes a bygone era and an earlier pandemic, while consistently finding complexity and meaning in the characters’ everyday routines. This thoughtful outing marks an affecting turn in Caldwell’s long career. Agent: Caron Knauer, Caron K. Literary. (Dec.)
Reviewed on : 09/15/2020
Release date: 12/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
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