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The Father's Tale

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  386 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
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. The father's ...more
Hardcover, 1076 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Ignatius Press (first published 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Webster Bull
Oct 23, 2011 Webster Bull rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
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
Dec 20, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011-list
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
Mar 19, 2016 Janie rated it really liked it
Updates are chronological; for the latest scroll down.

Thoughts upon beginning this chunker.
Updated 3/10/16: I've pushed through this getting-to-feel-interminable fat book to just shy of 500 pages. That amount in this time is pretty amazing to me because I'm not a fast reader at all. But, nights have been long with this horrible cold and reading fills those hours until I can finally sleep. Anyway, I'm still in Russia which, in my mind-that-sees-in-colors (or lack thereof), is all
May 03, 2012 Sonya rated it liked it
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 ...more
L.A. Nicholas
Mar 01, 2014 L.A. Nicholas rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2014 Catie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: re-readers
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 ...more
Aug 26, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-buy-next
Shoo-wee. I had decided to give this book 3 stars 100 pages ago, but the ending was so beautiful, I had to say 4.
Very well written and fascinating, all the different countries and cultures, an immortal story of the excessive love of a father and the dogged persistence of love. I could not appreciate the heavy-handed Catholicism and really I think this was the downfall of the story, for how many people can relate to comfort being found in the kissing of idols or a prophetic dream? And so (at bes
Lynn Joshua
Feb 08, 2014 Lynn Joshua rated it really liked it
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
Mar 04, 2015 Mimi rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
In my last O'Brien review, I mentioned that he had a tendency to be very polemical and very Catholic. Both of these tendencies were present in this novel as well, even though a large part was set in Russia he still definitely favors Catholics over Orthodox - he has several underground Catholics in Russia, and takes a few Orthodox swipes (although, there's a giggle worthy moment when the swipe comes back.) It's also a less even book than my previous reads - some parts are beautiful, some are way ...more
Nov 18, 2011 William rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 31, 2011 Karin rated it it was ok
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.
Bob Bellamy
Jan 06, 2014 Bob Bellamy rated it it was amazing
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.
Jozo Mandić
Jun 21, 2013 Jozo Mandić rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
Uživao sam u knjizi. Ima težinu! Ima poruku! Ali kraj... Kao prvo, žao mi je što je završila. A kao drugo, žao mi je što je završila tako kako je. Samo je pokvario knjigu! Ali dobro...
Julie Davis
Jan 05, 2012 Julie Davis rated it it was ok

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
Apr 24, 2016 Carol rated it really liked it
Recommended to Carol by: Jeff and Katie Moss
Michael O'Brien has written a book that demands patient readers. The length (1072 pages) and breadth, the insistent Catholic theology, the grim-turns-grimmer plot twists: these make it an epic novel that requires stamina and endurance.

Alex Graham is a widower who owns a bookstore in northern Canada. His younger son, a student at Oxford, goes missing. Alex puts all he owns at risk to try to find his son. He finds traces, clues, but tends to be two days behind the group with whom his son is assoc
Nov 29, 2015 Zachary rated it it was ok
Shelves: mediocre
As with all of Michael O'Brien's books which I have read, ''The Father's Tale'' has some mildly compelling insights, a few memorable one-liners, and moments of pleasurable light, all of which is nestled in and between stilted dialog, cliché-ridden internal monologues, and uninteresting characters.

To put what prevents O'Brien from being a good artist into two sentences, I offer the words of the Russian doctor found on page 739: ''Always you try to explain the obvious, [Mr. O'Brien]. You think oth
Jeff Miller
Nov 07, 2011 Jeff Miller rated it really liked it
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
Sep 05, 2014 Ethan rated it really liked it
I finished this book a few days ago and still haven't figured out what to write about it. It has an enormous power behind it as it gently moves along. This is real literature. This is not written in the Elmore Leonard style (, "I think of a story, and then I take out all the boring parts"). The characters think, they reason with each other, they speak to each other about deep truths, and cut through the surface-level emotions found in other novels of lesser scope. The author has a unique ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Robb rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Abandoned for long-windedness and static plot.

The Father's Tale A Novel by Michael D. O'Brien

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
Christin Weber
Jul 31, 2012 Christin Weber rated it really liked it
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
Jun 02, 2013 Magda rated it it was ok
Recommended to Magda by: John Guinee
Shelves: spiritual, general
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
May 20, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: christianity, fiction
I would have given this book five stars, had I had more of a love for, and understanding of, the Russian literary themes and metaphors that run throughout it. Nevertheless, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book, if you are up to over a thousand pages.
It can be a tough read to get through, because there are long sections, some well over a hundred pages, that really add nothing to the development of the plot, but which add a great deal to the story. This is NOT a book to be simply "gotten throu
Dec 15, 2011 Christopher rated it liked it
Shelves: lit-fiction
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 ...more
Anian Christoph
Feb 11, 2012 Anian Christoph rated it really liked it
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
Kevin Hughes
Oct 21, 2011 Kevin Hughes rated it really liked it
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
John Alexander
Aug 19, 2014 John Alexander rated it really liked it
I think it had to be that long. There is not one shortcut on Alex's journey -- the panic, the despair, the finding, the un-finding, the being found, the cost, and the reward.

Technically, O'Brien is not good at his craft. Early on I cringed at dialogue, and many other writers could give far more with less. He also likes to make random, callow digs at theological traditions outside his own Roman Catholicism. But he soars with what he has -- a warts-and-all vision of a modern everyman-pilgrim with
Margaret Mary
Feb 24, 2012 Margaret Mary rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2012 Mommymac10 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 26, 2013 Joe rated it it was ok
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, ...more
Apr 21, 2015 Dan rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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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.
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