The Father's Tale: A Novel
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The Father's Tale: A Novel

4.26 of 5 stars 4.26  ·  rating details  ·  195 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Father's Tale Canadian bookseller Alex Graham is a middle-age widower whose quiet life is turned upside down when his college-age son disappears from school in England. Leaving his safe and orderly world for the first time in his life, Graham travels to Oxford, Russia and beyond in search of his lost son who might have become involved with a high-brow, New Age group. T...more
Hardcover, 1076 pages
Published October 1st 2011 by Ignatius Press (first published August 31st 2011)
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The Father’s Tale, by Michael O’Brien, is an impressive book to look at. It clocks in over 1000 pages and is not for the faint of heart.

It’s a LOT of reading.

But wow! WHAT reading!

Here’s literature in the modern day, a little slice of what Dickens might look like if he were writing now. These characters are richly written and real people.

I’ve never been to Russia, and before I read this, I would have thought it unlikely that I would ever go. O’Brien makes his story a journey, and while you may n...more
Life's circumstances lent well to me reading this novel – I was on break from school, I deactivated my Facebook account and found myself somewhat of a social withdrawal, and my family went out of town, leaving me to a quiet house for four days. Consequently, I read The Father's Tale (a monster of a novel, coming in at a little over one thousand pages) in just about a week. And what an immaculate week it was!

O'Brien begins his novel in a quiet and friendly Canadian town. The main character – Alex...more
Webster Bull
Both Ignatius Press and I have bent over backward for Michael O’Brien. Ignatius leveled a small forest to print the new 1,072-page book by its franchise novelist, and I gave a week of free time to read it, despite my annoyance at its length. But there are good reasons why card-carrying super-Catholics like Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard blurbed this leviathan. It’s a whale of a ride, as Ahab might have said.

I have particularly enjoyed two other O’Brien novels, Island of the World and Theophilos—tho...more
Christin Weber
I've read most of O'Brien's books and am enjoying this one as much as the others. He's a pre-Vatican II Catholic novelist in the liberal tradition of what we used to call a Commonweal Catholic. At least that's my take on the philosophy that rises out of his stories. His characters struggle with intense issues of the soul, the sort of gut-wrenching experiences that Gerard Manley Hopkins addressed in his poetry: "Oh the mind, mind has mountains, cliffs of fall, sheer, steep, no-man-fathomed. Hold...more
At over 1000 pages it was quite an undertaking to read, but I was determined to get through it. I did take breaks now and then to read another book - or two, but I actually finished it more quickly than I expected. I'm not sure what to think of it. A large part of what kept me going was that I had to find out what the point of it was. Whenever I thought I had figured out where it was going the story veered off in a new direction. As the reader, my experience mirrored the protagonist's - he was l...more
L.A. Nicholas
This is a wonderful story. The author says it's a retelling of the parable of the prodigal son and the parable of the good shepherd. It's all that, and also an illustration that "he who would save his life must save it," that "you must be reborn of water and the Spirit," and many other Christian truths.

It also is a wonderful, long, complicated adventure story which literally spans the globe, and it's a story of self-discovery, as well as a romance (in the medieval sense) or, if you prefer, a que...more
Lynn Joshua
I really enjoyed this novel. I love the natural way the author weaves universal questions about the meaning of life, love and suffering into a compelling story. His use of poetry and imagery is beautiful. His characters are real. His message resonates. As a Protestant, I appreciated the deeper understanding I gained of the Catholic way.
It fell short of a truly great book though. The main character's inner thoughts are too repetitious. There is too much explaining. The first 3/4 needed to be cond...more
I read this in a was thrilling and yet deeply touching. He gives you so much to dwell on in your own life through his search for his son, his spiritual journey and growth through brokenness, his introverted, melancholic personality and its struggles- so applicable. Even though the tale is of a father searching for his son, I found it personally applicable to all of our eternal search for a father figure in our lives, which God alone fulfills. His struggles with his failures, his apath...more
When the 1,000 page book arrived from Amazon, I was feaful. Another successful author had lost the ability to edit himself, and had no one around him brave enough to criticize. I was wrong. This was a long, rich, journey of a book, and I had tears in my eyes as I turned the last page.

O'Brien tends to write about the journey of the faithful in a world where faith is marginalized, or actively resisted. This book has his most well-developed protagonist yet - an imperfect, self-absorbed man lead un...more
Overall, I was very disappointed in this book. Please Mr. O'Brien, do not take over a thousand pages to say what you can in five or six hundred! I found the story very disjointed, and either I missed the point of the story the author was trying to tell or it simply got lost in his ramblings.
As another reviewer said, there were some insightful moments in the telling of this story but not enough of them. All I can say is: Glad to be done with this one.
Abandoned for long-windedness and static plot.

The Father's Tale  A Novel

Verbosity does not bother me as long as there is significance in the message. In fact, I enjoy eloquence. Poetic descriptions, vivacious rhetoric, ebullient monologue... All grand reasons for wordiness. Unfortunately, there were none present in Part One of this 1072 page tome.

Let me summarize the first 275 pages.

A widowed bookstore owner from Canada receives a call from one of his college aged sons, who is studying in England, that worries him. The
Anian Christoph
What an epic ripper despite its apparent lengthiness this turned out to be. For a youngish/middle aged Dad like myself, here is a riveting, relentless and ultimately redeeming journey that explores the theme that Chesterton praises as the "Romance of Orthodoxy" in a wonderful transformational story of a father that - truth be told - made me shed more than the odd tear along the way.

#### vague spoiler alert #####

Certainly well worth the read if you are prepared to last for the whole book. Then t...more
More of a 3.5 star read but can't up it to 4. There were some genuinely unique and beautiful insights as well as some rare writing in The Father's Tale. It was these that kept me going through the thousand pages. But it was all few and far between. For me at least, having read quite a bit on the topic, the history that he revealed was parochial and so simplified that in the end it gave you no real grasp of what the Russian people suffered (or despite his short token mystical nod, what the Chines...more
Jeff Miller
Closer to 5 stars.

With author Michael O'Brien there are certain things you come to expect in his novels. Deep character sketches so well-crafter that the words almost demand that the person depicted is more than just fictional. Characters who are emotionally wounded, physically wounded, or a combination of this. A spiritual dimension that is just not a polish to the story, but an integral part of it. Cultural commentary and even art criticism are also components.

In his new novel "The Father's Ta...more
Julie Davis

He was losing all affection for Russia. It was a crazy country, full of crazy people. At any moment, crazy things came out of nowhere and ran over the unsuspecting traveler, shot him with an arrow or shook him like a pea in a tin can. Moreover, he realized that he had left behind at Obsk the bag in which he had carried his clothing, and he was doubly disturbed that he had not noticed until now. He possessed only the clothes on his back and the shoulder bag containing his documents, money, and a
Jun 02, 2013 Magda rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Magda by: John Guinee
Shelves: general, spiritual
Um. Well, it was interesting, and somewhat thought-provoking, but really weird. And reading this Catholic book as an Orthodox, it was really distracting when, in Russia, the Orthodox sign of the cross (every single time) is described as "backwards." And it was just really weird. And lots of really weird. (Not extremely weird, but extremely wordy.)

And the love interest in Russia was all: No, we can't fall in love because you're leaving me eventually. And then he's all: But we should still fall in...more
Kevin Hughes
Michael O'Brien adds another wonderful story to his growing body of work. Those familiar with his other novels will find a familiar set of themes and O'Brien's characteristic style.

The characterization is as intelligent and perceptive as always, perhaps even more so. I particularly enjoyed coming to the end of the story and being able to experience a sense of the change in the personality of the main character, Alex Graham. O'Brien successfully brought me from genuinely liking him in the beginni...more
A thought-provoking book about God, whether He exists, his meaning, relations between countries (mainly Russia and the U.S.), war and peace, parenthood, etcetera. There is enough action going on, tho, to keep readers' interest for all 1100 pages. After all, how many of us could read O'Brien's take on these topics for that many pages? You will pause frequently to consider what he has said. The plot, provided to introduce his real concerns to us, takes a widowed and introverted Canadian used-book...more
Margaret Mary
I'm currently 70 pages in to almost 1100, but it's good so far! I like Michael O'Brien's fiction, so I'm pretty motivated, but I'm a little skeptical that I can finish before it's due back to the library.

When I checked it out, the librarian she and the other staff were "impressed" with the size. My first impression was that he needed a less generous editor. We'll see how it goes!

UPDATE: I liked the story very much; it would be a great fiction choice for Lent. One of the story lines was seemingly...more
This book, 1072 pages long, is supposed to be a weighty book, an important book, a book of significance. Unfortunately, I didn't find it that way. The first 900 pages tell the story of a man chasing after his son, who has gotten involved in a cult. Then, after the reader has heard detailed stories of all the people the father has met along the way, he suddenly is captured by the Russians and accused of being a spy. Now, the story actually would have made more sense if he had truly been a spy, bu...more
No other modern fiction writer has gripped my spiritual imagination like Michael D O'Brien. Like his other novels, you undergo a literary purgatory - suffering with these everyday characters - seeing them broken down before they can be raised up. The Father's Tale is a beautiful story. As a new father myself, I think of the love I have for my son - the ends of the earth that I would travel to keep him safe. It also, more importantly, reminds us how far God goes to protect us. Rarely do we clearl...more
Just bought this book and can't wait to get into it. Michael O'Brien is, I think, one of the great novelists of the 20th (and now 21st) Century. His Island of the World was better than all the earlier ones, hard to read for the pathos, yet so gripping I couldn't put it down.

I love his writing for the strong characterizations, the grasp of human nature in all its shame and glory, and his profound spiritual grasp. Plus, he does it all with enormous grace and beauty. It's true that his novels are v...more
Chris Mabrey
This was may favorite book for 2012. I am re-reading it again at a more leisurely pace on my Kindle. Catching wonderful details I missed the first time through. Small spoiler: The only minor complaint I have for this book is in the last act (after Russia). Things felt a little disjointed for me in that section of the book, but I think it was because I did not want to leave Russia behind with all the wonderful details the author had presented to his readers; the characters, the atmosphere of the...more
Sonja Maierhauser
Long, beautifully written, sparked an interest in Russia. A great meditation on the prodigal son.
O'Brien has gone over the top with this book. For the most part the story is a real grabber. Then the main character gets to Siberia and it really bogs down. It took me to this point in the book to realize that the story really isn't about a father looking for his son, it's about the father. I have to admit that I did flip through some of the pages during that long Siberian section. Just not enough action for me. I guess it just wouldn't be an O'Brien book with all of those digressions but he's...more
riveting. life changing.
John O'Brien
My father is kind enough to send copies of his novels to his offspring, and this one, his latest, came out last fall. At over 1000 pages, it looks intimidatingly like a Russian novel, and while much of it does indeed take place in Russia, it is a page-turner that I devoured in less than two weeks – during the frenzied heart of graduate school, no less. Warning: it’s a weeper, but in the sense of “good-sad”. Perhaps it’s because the heart of the Father seems so close, especially while the charact...more
O'Brien tells the story of Canadian Alex Graham, who leaves his quiet, safe, small-town life to travel literally to the other side of the world in search of one of his young sons Andrew. This novel combines mystery, adventure, and spiritual journey. Maybe that's why it's over 1000 pages! One of its weaknesses is that some of the subplots aren't fully integrated. But, hey, that's life. And for the reader who may begin to get restless about two-thirds of the way through, my advice is "Keep going!"...more
Bob Bellamy
This is an unbelievable epic tale of a man and his sons. Spiritually enriching and dramatically moving, O'Brien scores another huge hit. With each successive book, he exceeds the previous. I could hardly put this book down. I can't recommend it more highly.
What an achingly beautiful portrait of redemptive suffering and a life completely abandoned to the will of God! I love Mr. O'Brien's tales of concrete faith bathed in mysticism. He always inspires me to simplify, to love and to seek God, all with abandon. Please don't ever stop writing, Michael O'Brien!
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Michael D. O'Brien is a Roman Catholic author, artist, and frequent essayist and lecturer on faith and culture, living in Combermere, Ontario, Canada.
More about Michael D. O'Brien...
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“Yet he saw that in all places there was originality, resulting from the human efforts at decoration and ingenious methods of survival.” 2 likes
“Human relationships were so complicated and always veering in the direction of the irrational.” 2 likes
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