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Since I began reviewing books on the blog, I have had the opportunity to review a few that are truly written for Catholics or depicting the Catholic faith in such a way that a Catholic reader might have a deeper appreciation for the author’s work. Most of these books, however, have been from the realm of non-fiction. You just do not see many that fit the genre of Catholic fiction. So, having TWO different works to share about today (in separate posts) that do fit that category is practically amazing.
Dancing With Gravity
Dancing with Gravity, written by Anene Tressler, has a Catholic priest as its protagonist with other characters representing a mixture of Catholics and non-Catholics.
Set in St. Louis, this story follows the life of Father Samuel Whiting as he awakens from a life half-lived. After a 6 week trip to Italy, he returns to find the circus in town…with their camp set up at the Missionary Sisters of the Little Flower’s motherhouse. He is asked to bless the circus as well as offer Mass weekly for the nuns and circus members, much to the dismay of certain board and staff members at St. Teresa’s Hospital where he works as the head of Pastoral Care.
Through his interactions with the nuns, the circus, and Sarah, the hospital’s marketing person, he has his eyes open to a world he had not seen. In the process, he also experiences strained relationships with those who have known him for years and want only the best for him.
Dancing with Gravity: My Thoughts
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. I can not say that I was completely hooked from the absolute beginning of my reading. But, within a relatively short order I felt compelled to keep reading in hopes of seeing how Father’s internal and external battles would unfold. I can say that Ms. Tressler did a good job of laying out the path he traveled to ultimately become fully present in life. Along the way, she also incorporated aspects of the Catholic faith as well as pieces of the ritual prayers used by a priest in his daily life.
The one thing about this novel that was a bit troubling for me on a personal level was reading just how human the character of Father is portrayed. As a youth, I wanted to believe that those who have entered a vocation such as the priesthood are beyond some of the sinful nature the rest of us are subject to endure. It was early in high school at a parish youth event that I realized our priests and religious are just as human as the rest of us. Temptation comes knocking and our frail nature can lead us to make poor choices that result in the occurrence of sin. While I know that priests and religious are fully human and prone to sin, it is sometimes hard to not expect them to be holier than the rest of us.
Dancing with Gravity does an excellent job of reflecting the inner turmoil as well as the presence of temptation and opportunity for sin experienced by Father. While some writers might use that as a launching board to cast a character in a bad light, Ms. Tressler does just the opposite. Instead, the novel at times seems like a psychologist’s dream with internal dialogs peppered throughout the work along with his interactions with others. Yet, most likely through God’s Grace, he manages to not cross over to ‘the dark side’ during the process.
In the end, the reader is left with an image of a priest who not only has come to life, but has begun to truly step outside the rote role he had played and embraces the opportunity to make a difference in another’s life.
***Note*** Don’t forget to pop over and read the Q&A post with Anene. I really appreciate her taking the time to do this and loved reading her responses.
Dancing with Gravity is published by Blank Slate Press and is available for purchase in hardback, paperback, or pdf file format. Anyone purchasing a print copy direct from Blank Slate Press also receives the pdf file for free. (That’s a great way to get started reading quickly!)
Updated (6/6/11): Anene just informed me that Dancing with Gravity took first prize for 2011 International Book Awards! Congratulations, Anene! I loved this book and will be awaiting future novels from you.in the
Disclaimer ~ I was sent an advance reader copy of Dancing with Gravity for the purpose of completing this review through TLC Book Tours. No other compensation was provided and the opinions expressed here are my own. You can find links to other blogs reviewing this title by clicking HERE.