cover image A History of Loneliness

A History of Loneliness

John Boyne. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-17133-9

Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) explores the tumultuous history of the priesthood in the Irish church. Father Odran Yates narrates from when his mother told him he ought to take vows through the present day. For many years, Odran has taught and cared for the library at Terenure College in Dublin, going about his days in near ignorance of church politics. He is without ambition and often exasperatingly na%C3%AFve. He insists that he enjoys his life, despite one painfully botched and shameful romantic interest. When string of priests are convicted of sexually harassing young boys in their congregations, Odran pushes away the news for as long as he can, despite increasingly aggressive and pointed public response. Then he tries to return a boy that's been separated from his mother in a department store, and the Garda detain him, accusing Odran of attempting to kidnap the child. When an old roommate resurfaces, Odran must face his own denial and the pain it's caused. The book sags during conversations with formulaically villainous clergymen but is otherwise a quietly enlightening meditation on how the Irish Catholic church has let down its congregations. (Feb.)