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The Bishop's Man: A Novel by Linden…

The Bishop's Man: A Novel (2009)

by Linden MacIntyre

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The Bishop’s Man won the prestigious Giller Prize in 2009. In the story, Duncan MacAskill, a Catholic priest who has a genius touch for ‘resolving’ church scandals quickly and quietly is now assigned to an insignificant parish in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The effects of the cover-ups which MacAskill orchestrated are starting to haunt him, causing overdrinking and the decision to give his past journals to a reporter.

The book was published in the midst of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal case in the Antigonish Nova Scotia diocese, which eventually resulted in a $15 million settlement by the Catholic Church.

I found the back-and-forth-in-time format a little distracting but this is a sickening and powerful story.

4 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Mar 21, 2018 |
Set in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, we meet Father MacAskill, a Catholic priest who serves his bishop as a troubleshooter putting out fires when a priest is accused of molesting children or stealing from the church collection. He also carries a secret from his past when he served as a missionary in Honduras where his affair with a married woman led to another priest being assassinated in a case of mistaken identity.

As the press closes in on some of his activities related to putting out fires, his bishop decides to hide him as a parish priest in a parish close to where he grew up. This leads to more complications because of his mysterious parents and the suicides of young people from the town. His involvement with another woman also creates pressure all of which leads to a major drinking problem.

There are many discussions among the priests about their faith and the loneliness of the job and why men choose to be priests. By the time I was half way through, I could not put it down. Highly readable. ( )
  lamour | Jun 29, 2017 |
CBC placed this book on the 100 Books that Make us Proud to be Canadian list and I can see why. It also won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2009. Linden MacIntyre is possibly best known for being a journalist but his career as a novelist is nothing to be sneezed at. This book will, I believe, be a classic Canadian novel much like The Stone Angel or, closer to the setting of this book, No Great Mischief.
Father Duncan MacAskill is approaching the age of fifty, a time when one starts to take stock of one’s life and wonder about choices that one made. He grew up on Cape Breton Island back when it was an island before the Causeway was built that connected it with Nova Scotia. His mother died when he was young and his father was suffering from what we would call PTSD from World War II. Throughout his career as a priest he has been tasked by the Bishop to help other priests who have transgressed. Usually that means moving the priest to a location where their history is unknown and they will fade from the public eye. On one occasion when the red-haired priest thought another priest had transgressed and he brought it to the attention of the Bishop he was the person who was moved away. Sent to Honduras he experienced his own fallibility and he has nightmares about it still. At this late stage in his life he is sent by the Bishop to become a parish priest back on Cape Breton, close to where he grew up. There he has to face his own demons as well as other people’s.
Suicide and sexual abuse reoccur throughout this book. So this is certainly not a light read but the writing is of such a caliber that one ponders the deeper meaning rather than feeling repugnance. There are also descriptions of the countryside that are absolutely lovely. At one point Duncan is near the Ontario Escarpment which he describes as follows:
There is a light fog that gives the escarpment the appearance of a medieval hillside village. I can imagine the shapes of parapets and battlements. Tall trees, sculpted by the moving mists to look like ghostly towers.
Finally I can’t leave this review without praising the cover which shows a man in a long dark coat at the seashore at sunrise (I presume from the pink hue to the sky). The horizon line is slanted down from left to right. When I first noticed the slant I thought it was odd but after reading the book I think it is meant to convey how Duncan feels off-balance throughout the book. The cover was designed by CS Richardson who has done some of the best cover designs for Canadian books. I think there should be a GG Literature award for book design so Richardson would get the recognition he deserves. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | May 31, 2016 |
“The future has no substance until it turns the corner into hope” That was how I originally wrote down that quote. But then I realised I made a typo — the last word should be history. “The future has no substance until it turns the corner into history” But isnt that an interesting typo! A whole new rich meaning. P 228. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
An interesting book that petered out. Ending anticlimactic. ( )
  brocade | Nov 15, 2015 |
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Oh ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? - Psalms
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THe night before things started to become unstuch, I actually spent a good hour taking stock of my general situation and concluded that, all things considered, I was in pretty good shape.
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Book description
Father Duncan MacAskill knows all about temptation, all the devious ways that lonely priests persuade themselves that their private needs trump their vows. His fellow men of the cloth call him the "Exorcist" behind his back because he's spent most of his priesthood as the bishop's clean-up man, the enforcer sent in to discipline the wayward priests and tidy away potential scandal. Tidy away the emotions of the victims too, which is something that has been increasingly wearing away at his sense of justice and calling. And so, when the bishop catches wind that a big media scandal may be heading their way and suggests taht now might be the time for Duncan to relocate to duties in a country parish far out of the line of fire, he is only too willing. The trouble is the parish is very near where Duncan grew up. The long nights in the glebe give him too much time to think about his own troubled childhood, and to drink, and to think some more. He's already teetering when into his orbit come not only a woman he thinks he might love but also a boy who may have been the victim of one of his perverted charges: his fault, his chance of redemption, his comeuppance. Pushed to the breaking point by loneliness, tragedy and sudden self-knowledge, Duncan sets out on a course of action that reveals how hidden obsessions and guilty secrets either find their way to the light of understanding, or poison any chance we have for love and spiritual peace. (978-0-307-35706-9)
Haiku summary
The "Exorcist" flees

In the sea of emptiness

His demons haunt him

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307357066, Hardcover)

Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed to a rowdy adolescent enthusiasm. This young man, I realized, was exceptional only because of time and place. Maybe any one of them in those circumstances would have been the same. Quiet. But he caught my attention nevertheless and linked the moment to tender places in the memory. Doomed boys and men: in retrospect they all have that stillness.
--from The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre
The year is 1993 and Father Duncan MacAskill stands at a small Cape Breton fishing harbour a few miles from where he grew up. Enjoying the timeless sight of a father and son piloting a boat, Duncan takes a moment’s rest from his worries. But he does not yet know that his already strained faith is about to be tested by his interactions with a troubled boy, 18-year-old Danny MacKay.
Known to fellow priests as the “Exorcist” because of his special role as clean-up man for the Bishop of Antigonish, Duncan has a talent for coolly reassigning deviant priests while ensuring minimal fuss from victims and their families. It has been a lonely vocation, but Duncan is generally satisfied that his work is a necessary defense of the church. All this changes when lawyers and a policeman snoop too close for the bishop’s comfort. Duncan is assigned a parish in the remote Cape Breton community of Creignish and told to wait it out.
This is not the first time Duncan has been sent away for knowing too much: decades ago, the displeased bishop sent a more idealistic Duncan to Honduras for voicing suspicions about a revered priest. It was there that Duncan first tasted forbidden love, with the beautiful Jacinta. It was also there that he met the courageous Father Alfonso, who taught him more about spiritual devotion than he had ever known back home. But when an act of violence in Honduras shook Duncan to his core, he returned home a changed man, willing to quietly execute the bishop’s commands.
Now, decades later in Cape Breton, Duncan claims to his concerned sister Effie that isolation is his preference. But when several women seek to befriend him, along with some long-estranged friends, Duncan is alternately tempted and unnerved by their attentions. Drink becomes his only solace.
Attempting to distract himself with parish work, Duncan takes an interest in troubled young Danny, whose good-hearted father sells Duncan a boat he names The Jacinta. To Duncan’s alarm, he discovers that the boy once spent time with an errant priest who had been dispatched by Duncan himself to Port Hood. Duncan begins to ask questions, dreading the answers. When tragedy strikes, he knows that he must act. But will his actions be those of a good priest, or an all too flawed man?
Winner of the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Linden MacIntyre’s searing The Bishop’s Man is an unforgettable and complex character study of a deeply conflicted man at the precipice of his life. Can we ever be certain of an individual’s guilt or innocence? Is violence ever justified? Can any act of contrition redeem our own complicity?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:07 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Father Duncan MacAskill has spent most of his priesthood as the ?Exorcist ? - a man employed by his bishop to tidy away potential scandal. While sent by his bishop to a contry parish to avoid a big media scandal, Duncan must confront his consequences of past cover-ups and the suppression of his own human needs.… (more)

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