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Sins of the Fathers by Chris Lynch

Sins of the Fathers

by Chris Lynch

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Reviewed by Me for TeensReadToo.com

Drew, Skitz, and Hector are a tribe. They've known each other since they were little kids, and you can almost always find them together. As a tribe, they watch each other's backs. When one takes a fall, they usually all do, because that's just the way a tribe works. They get in trouble together, quite a bit, at the Catholic school they attend. They can make up their own trouble, too, especially when Skitz and sometimes Hector accompany Drew on his newspaper route.

There's another tribe involved in SINS OF THE FATHER, though, and they're made up of Fathers Blarney, Mullarkey, and Shenanigan. Sometimes they're iron-fisted, sometimes they're full of baloney, sometimes they're just regular priests doing the best they can to keep three boys under control.

But Drew is worried when his tribe starts getting out of hand. The normally calm and cool Hector is acting strange, and when Drew suggests a possible reason for the personality change (involving one of the Fathers of the Church), Hector goes a little crazy. Skitz, too, who can never shut up, especially at the most inappropriate times, is talking even more than usual.

What follows are events that will put the boys' friendship to the test.

Although SINS OF THE FATHERS can be interpreted both literally and figuratively, this is a story that, ultimately, focuses on the three boys and their loyalty to one another. Being a tribe means watching each other's backs, yes, but it also means a whole lot more. For Drew, Skitz, and Hector, life may never be exactly the same, but there's truth in the fact that friendship can get you through anything. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 13, 2009 |
Richie's Picks: SINS OF THE FATHERS by Chris Lynch, HarperCollins/Harper Tempest, September 2006, publisher's age recommendation: 14 and up, ISBN: 0-06-074037-X;Libr ISBN: 0-06-074038-8

"Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise him, for he is thy health and salvation!"
-- One of the hymns I fondly sort of remember from my young years, when I'd regularly find myself on polished wooden pews, surrounded by the smell of wet, thawing wool, in a warm-but-cavernous church, on cold and snowy Sunday mornings back on Long Island.

"At six-fifteen on a borderline blizzard morning, outside my bedroom window, Skitz Fitzsimmons reared his ugly head. I was preoccupied and groggy at the same time, so I didn't even notice him there until he was staring back at me like a lunatic mirror reflection. He had one eye squinted and the other eye wide and his mouth was pinched up in a pucker and shifted way over to the side. Like he always looked."

So begins the story told by Drew St. Cyr, one-third of a close-knit tribe of young men who attend Blessed Sacrament, a Catholic school in Boston that is attached to the big old church of the same name. Drew's two "partners in crime" are star altar boy Hector Fossas and the wild and crazy Skitz Fitzsimmons.

"Skitz was just along for the ride mostly, but Hector came from one of those very serious families who believed the Church was everything and everything they said was true no matter how sci-fi it sounded. He didn't believe it was everything, exactly, but he believed it was right up there. He somehow managed to be all right anyway.
" 'I don't believe you will tell me shuddup again,' Hector said calmly.
" 'I do believe I am telling you shuddup right now,' Skitz said.
"They really are good friends. It's just that a lot of the time it's a good thing that they have me in between them. I have fine interpersonal skills."

In the alternately dark and funny SINS OF THE FATHERS, Drew narrates the story of the trio's close friendship amidst the life-altering events that entangle all three at the same time that a new priest is assigned to the Blessed Sacrament parish.

"This was our new priest? This was like nobody's priest.
"In addition to his eye-catching entrance, he was a whole eyeful himself. He was a revelation. He was a whole book of revelations. We had never seen a father like Father Mullarkey, and I'd bet nobody else had either. First, he dressed like a free-walking citizen rather than a priest. A big fan of denim, of ripped denim and patches and T-shirts that looked like he was spray painted with a hose. "What else he was very much like, was a Hells Angels motorcycle club guy, which meant he looked like a big meat-eating hippy with long hair, an acre of ginger beard, and strappy, bumpy muscles. He looked like a hippy that ate hippies. He sounded like a talking bear."

As he gets to know the bear-like priest (and Father Mullarkey's love for greasy food, alcoholic beverages, and late-Sixties rock), Drew is fascinated at how the new priest so frequently strays "from the assigned text," the official Church teachings. Meanwhile, the official Church--personified by Monsignor Blarney and Father Shenanigan--is in the process of trying to sort the three young men into categories. This sorting process will hack at their bonds of their friendship. But it is the new priest who seeks to galvanize Drew, urging him to hold on tight.

" 'You've got a good little tribe there, Andrew. And all of life winds up being driven by tribes. Your family, your school, your profession, your denomination. Your friends. Your tribe is quality. I wish I could join your tribe.'
" 'You can. You have.'
" 'Thanks. But I can only ever be an honorary member, which, I will remain honored to be for the rest of my life. Closer to home, though, stick tight with the tribe you have. Look out for one another. If you ever can't count on your tribe, on the people who are supposed to be there for you, if they, in fact, turn out to be your problem, then you are well and truly wasted, my young friend.' "

There are glimpses of a nun or two, along with a mother calling from inside a house. But otherwise there are no females in sight. This is a harsh and unforgiving story of male relationships that has me reminiscing about the tribes of my own adolescence, those guys who played such pivotal roles in making me the guy I am today.

Richie Partington
BudNotBuddy@aol.com ( )
  richiespicks | May 26, 2009 |
There's much to like about this YA book--quirky characters, fun dialogue, compelling relationships. And yet, the timing is distractingly elusive--Drew watches for the Hancock Tower windows to fall out (the big story upon the building's completion in 1973) while the Bruins are losing to the Mighty Ducks (a team that formed in 1993). Drew refers to the vinyl record as if it were a relic...meanwhile the atmosphere of the book shouts out Baby Boomer Childhood, as if it were a half-hearted attempt to bring the author's recollections of childhood in Boston into the present so kids will read it.

I so wanted to like these tough Boston Catholic boys, but, who were they? I kept checking back to see if maybe I'd gotten the ages wrong. Their dialogue is too smooth, their jokes are too clever, and they just aren't gawky enough. As 16-year-olds, maybe. But 13? Not even in the movies.

The crux of the book is the "tribe" of three sticking together through the changes in Drew and his friends. The sticking together part is clearly defined. The "tribe" part...well, never having been a 13-year-old tough Boston Catholic boy I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt on that one. But the rest is so subtle it risks being lost on the intended audience. Hector goes from being a model Catholic who beats up fellow "tribe" member Skitz for no apparent reason, to being a quieter Catholic who prays longer after confession and beats up a water rat. Meanwhile, Skitz's experimentation with glue-sniffing is illustrated by one scene in which he acts goofier than his usual goofy self.

Lynch has got some great stuff going on, though. I'd try another by him just for the fact that he can find a dozen clever ways of having boys tell each other "shuddup." ( )
  Alirambles | Jul 13, 2008 |
Three 13-year-old friends struggle with the revelation that one of them, an altar boy, is being abused by a priest. ( )
  TonySandel | Sep 16, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 006074037X, Hardcover)

It's your team or your family or your neighborhood or your church, or maybe just yourself and two other guys. But you have to be able to count on each other, or you can't count on anything at all.

My guys are Skitz Fitzsimmons, who's daffy as a box of frogs, and Hector Fossas, who could pass for Jesus' stronger, tougher, holier brother. I'd stack my guys against anybody's.

The tribe that runs everything in my parish is the Franchise: Fathers Blarney, Mullarkey, and Shenanigan. One's an old blowhard, one's a nasty piece of work, and one's the coolest priest on wheels. Except as soon as you think you know all that, you find out you don't know anything.

They're in charge of right and wrong, but it seems like they make it up as they go along.

They want to break us apart, because of what we see and what we say. So I guess the question is, can the rest of the tribe wait when one guy's falling behind?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:32 -0400)

At Boston's Blessed Sacrament Catholic School, Drew, aided by a priest who is far from perfect--and on the wrong side of the Monsignor--stands by his best friends as one struggles to avoid being sent to public school and the other tries to hide serious problems.… (more)

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