I don’t typically like celebrity books and I don’t read much in the way of memoirs or comedy books. However, Ron Swanson is one of my all time favorite TV characters and I pretty much love everything about Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman. So, I broke my literary fiction trend and picked up this celebrity memoir at Book Expo this year. Read more
It’s not often that a book leaves me with such conflicting feelings. This debut by Boston author Nafkote Tamirat is a coming of age story set in Boston and an unnamed tropical island. It’s the sort of book that left me with many questions and a mix of reactions. Here’s my review… Read more
Having just finished this book a few days ago, I can understand why it’s getting such mixed reviews from readers. People seem to either love or hate this book. As someone who doesn’t typically love short stories, I was skeptical about this book but Carmen Machado made me a believer. Here’s why.. Read more
Looking for a good Southern Gothic novel that’s perfect for the summer? I just finished a book that might be the perfect addition to your summer reading list: Gradle Bird by J.C. Sasser. Keep reading to find out why. Read more
I follow Roxane Gay on Twitter and I have heard her speak a few times but Difficult Women is the first book of hers that I’ve read. Overall, I have mixed feelings about the book and here’s my review… Read more
Today it is president’s day in the United States and many of us had the day off of work. If you are looking for an appropriate novel to read on this day, I have the perfect book for you: Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Read more
2017 is off to a good start for me, at least in terms of books. I’m participating in Litsy’s A to Z challenge (I’m admittedly obsessed with Litsy after finally discovering all the cool things over there) and since I’m mildly compulsive with respect to the order of how I complete challenges, I started off the year with “A.” Thus, The Association of Small Bombs by Mahajan was my first selection of the year.
Shame on me but I’d never heard of Blake Crouch until I saw this book being promoted at Book Expo this year. I like speculative fiction (Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors) but I don’t typically read too many books that fall into the genre. I went into this book knowing little to nothing about it and here’s what I thought… Read more
I’ve been a bit of a slacker when it comes to this book. I received a galley a while ago (although to be fair I received it after the publication date) and have only just gotten around to reading it. Here’s what I thought… Read more
A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale
First published: 2012 (most recent edition released 2016)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by: Jen
Find it/buy it here: A Perfectly Good Man
Set in the heart of Cornwall, A Perfectly Good Man is a novel about faith, morality, and what it means to live a good life. The protagonist, Barnaby Johnson is a parish priest who is summoned to the home of a paralyzed young man named Lenny. When he arrives, he learns that he wasn’t called to provide comfort but rather to witness and provide last rites for Lenny who ingested poison while the priest was in his home. Barnaby witnesses the young man die, helpless to do anything other than pray for him. Lenny’s death has impacts for the whole community and Gale draws in various characters to highlight these far-reaching effects.
The novel is told in a nonlinear style with chapters centering around various stages of Barnaby’s life and the final chapter in the book takes place when Barnaby was a child. Barnaby is not a perfect man. He has moments of weakness, crisis, and doubt. Yet despite these moments, he is a good man (hence the title). The nonlinear style is clever in building up suspense and providing a few moments of shock when the reader realizes how some of the pieces of his life come together. The emotional impact of various events only gain true meaning when certain facts are revealed in later chapters.
I had never read anything by Patrick Gale prior to this book. The publishing house contacted requesting a review stating that they thought I might like it because I had indicated preference for Colm Toibin’s work. There were definitely some similarities in style between the two authors and there is no question that Gale is a supremely talented writer. I enjoyed many things about the book including the writing style, the non-linear style, and the rich character development. The book is heavy on the religious themes — the main character is a priest after all. It’s certainly not heavy-handed or preachy and in fact the major conflict in the novel is a crisis of faith. However, the author has something to say about the power of prayer. I am not a religious person and I don’t particularly care for books with heavy Christian themes. In fact, I explicitly state (on our review page) that I won’t take requests for Christian fiction. I wouldn’t classify this as Christian fiction but it is an exploration of faith: faith tested and faith restored. So it’s a testament that I actually enjoyed it as much as I did.
This book will appeal to those who like beautifully constructed novels that tackle questions of faith. It is a heartfelt novel that is emotionally engaging and interesting. It will also appeal to those who enjoy reading books about ordinary people living in small towns.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Does it appeal to you? Why or why not? Have you read others by Patrick Gale?