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The Variations: A Novel by John Donatich
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The Variations: A Novel

by John Donatich

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I have been holding onto this book for a long time, trying to make myself pick it up again. I have given up. This book is not for me. The characters are tedious and unlovable, and not in an interesting way. I felt like the book had promise, but unfocused narrative made it hard for me to get through. ( )
  verbafacio | Nov 6, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This novel is a mess, unfocused and unsatisfying. Characters are not fully formed and in some cases nearly abandoned; James, apparently meant to be a major character, never fully enters the story-just pokes around the edges. Had Donatich focused on Dom and his struggles with his faith and the politics of the church as well as the troubled Dolores, the novel would have been more interesting. However, the author chooses to follow Dom's sexual and social awakenings and simply knocks off Dolores. The reader is also treated to sententious musings and bafflegab such as " He feels his forehead expand across the absence in his skull" and "The way the pedal reached deep inside the piano's box, as if a prostate shifted the entire soundboard." These make no sense either in or out of context. ( )
  dleona | Apr 20, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In The Variations, John Donatich creates a portrait of a parish priest who struggles with his faith, alcoholism, and his self-esteem. Father Dominic pursues a daily routine that encompasses a morning run and priestly duties. Inwardly, he experiences a plethora of doubts and insecurity. When his pastor, Father Carl, dies, Father Dominic plunges into a whirlpool of emotional pain that is heightened by his encounters with Dolores, a teenage temptress. His faith continues to be challenged and when the bishop confirms that the church is to be closed, he is forced to confront the question of whether he should be a priest at all.
The Variations takes its title from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. An African American pianist, James, helps Father Dominic with the music in the church. He is preparing the piece for a recital. During the course of the book these variations become a metaphor for what happens in Father Dominic’s life and in the lives of several characters.
Donatich has written a lovely book—one that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with their faith. The prose flows smoothly and the pacing keeps the reader turning the pages. This is a strong debut novel that will linger in the reader’s mind long after the final page is turned. Highly recommended! ( )
  cvjacobs | Apr 10, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed reading this book very much. I found it very thought-provoking and believable. It was interesting to have the novel told from the point of view of a doubting priest and to address issues of a declining church without bringing up the sexual abuse scandals that are often in the news. I also liked the layering in of the piano recital plot and that the ending was left ambiguous. ( )
  jjm2004 | Feb 28, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805094385, Hardcover)

A compelling sympathy of the faiths that fill the gap between who we set out to be and who we ultimately become

A powerful debut novel about a priest who has lost his church, his mentor, and, most upsetting, his ability to pray. How can Father Dominic protect or guide his parish when everything he loves falls away? How can he counsel Dolores, a troubled teenager prone to emotional panic and spiritual monomania? Or James, a promising African American pianist, struggling to realize his artistic ambitions by bringing his own voice to a piece that has been played by the world's most brilliant pianists, Bach's Goldberg Variations.

Into this malaise comes Andrea, a sophisticated New York editor attracted at first by Dom's blog and then by the man himself. Dom's journey from the cloth into the secular world will offer carnal knowledge, but also something deeper, a more resistant knowledge as life fails to offer happiness or redemption. In prose both searching and muscular, John Donatich's The Variations has located the right metaphor for our spiritual crisis in this story of one man's spiritual disillusion and ache for self-knowledge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:10 -0400)

Suffering a serious crisis of faith in the face of painful losses, a priest struggles to appropriately counsel a troubled teen and a challenged pianist before meeting a sophisticated New York editor who offers him love.

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