Faith Hough's Reviews > The Namesake

The Namesake by Steven Parlato
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Apr 23, 2013

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary
Read from April 22 to 23, 2013

Much has been said already about the depth of Steven Parlato's character development and the strength of his writing—I second it all. But as a Catholic, I'd like to approach this review from a different angle. If you haven't read the other reviews, I'll let you know upfront that The Namesake is a book which deals with sexual abuse of a child by a Catholic priest, and is what I call a very “gritty” book. There is a good bit of language, a steady stream of mature issues (on top of more than one case of abuse, there's suicide, death of a child, and more...), and some graphic images—I can say that I would not have been ready to read this book when I was a teen, but I am very glad I have read it as an adult. (I had to think of Flannery O'Connor's statement that a writer must be “hotly in pursuit of the real,” as hard as it was to read even now.) Obviously sexual abuse is a devastating, but too common occurrence, both in the church and in the world in general. But it pains me to see how many people take the jump to completely writing off the church, and even God—not to mention anyone who professes Catholicism—as a result. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it sickens me to hear Catholics try to downplay the seriousness of the sin. I felt that The Namesake struck the perfect balance for the first time in my experience. The priest's actions are portrayed as evil—completely evil. Yet what ultimately gives the main character strength is his faith in God, his ability to forgive, and the prayerful support of his family. I admit that I sobbed more than once while reading...but never more so than during the moments where a truly super-human forgiveness is practiced.
On a less serious note, I loved the authenticity of the family relationships and the family's faith. It's so easy to stereotype...but it made me laugh as well as nod my head in recognition to see all the different characters, all “ringing true”.
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