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book review: A Son Called Gabriel, by Damian McNicholl

By Debra Hamel  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments


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CDS Books, 343 pages

Gabriel Harkin is growing up in the 1960s and '70s in a working-class Catholic family. Northern Ireland at the time is riven by political and religious differences, and the Troubles form a backdrop to Gabriel's childhood and adolescence. But the more immediate cause of Gabriel's unhappiness during these years is his homosexuality. Bullied for his effeminacy, tormented by guilt when he gives way to what the Church tells him are sinful urges, Gabriel worries too that he is a disappointment to his father, who appears to favor Gabriel's athletic and mechanically-inclined brother James. Gabriel cannot confess his desires, not even to his beloved uncle, Father Brendan, but he does come to realize that his sexual proclivity is not the only secret being harbored in the Harkin family: some disgrace which his parents refuse to discuss evidently lies behind Brendan's entrance into the priesthood.

Damian McNicholl's A Son Called Gabriel is written in the first person and reads like a memoir. As such it will inevitably be compared to Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes. Remarkably, McNicholl's novel does not suffer from the comparison. It is so well written, and the author's portrayal of Gabriel is so vivid, that readers will be hard-pressed to remember they're holding a piece of fiction in their hands. A Son Called Gabriel creates a fully realistic community--Gabriel's parents and siblings and extended family of aunts and uncles and grandparents, the boys who taunt or befriend him at school--and a likable main character with whom readers cannot but sympathize as they watch him grow to manhood. It is a perfect novel. And, quiet story though it is, the book packs a wallop in its final pages when the secret of Brendan's retreat into the clergy is finally revealed.

About the reviewer: Debra Hamel is the author of TRYING NEAIRA (Yale University Press, 2003), the true story of an ancient Greek prostitute whose seamy past was put on display during her trial in the fourth century B.C.

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For more of Debra's book reviews visit www.book-blog.com.
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Debra Hamel Blog: www.the-deblog.com
Reviews: www.book-blog.com / www.thebibliofiles.com

 

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

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Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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