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3.9  ·  Rating details ·  294 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
Fatherless by Brian J. Gail Called a book of the century, powerful, gripping, deeply moving, hauntingly beautiful, masterfully done, a must read and a freight train page turner! An intensely human tour of the great spiritual battles in the US Catholic church during the late 20th century. Brian Gail takes us out into the "trenches" and shows what life was like for Catholics ...more
Paperback, 554 pages
Published October 12th 2011 by Emmaus Road Publishing (first published August 14th 2008)
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Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I read about one fiction book per year, but I'm sure glad I made this the one! This is Part I of a trilogy originally titled "The American Tragedy," so I look forward to reading parts 2 and 3.

Set in the 1980s, the main character is a young Catholic priest who is struggling to meet the true needs of his flock. The story tracks the journey of three different parishioners who are battling three different claws within the culture of death. I think this book dives into the fall of our culture with m
Dec 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religious, fiction
A rare work of fiction for me...not unlike the style of Michael Crichton's "state of fear" which a carefully researched message is interwoven with multiple story lines that converge. Crichton's message was the hoax of global warming...Gail's message is about the inherent evils and dangers (physical, spiritual, and emotional) of contraception. Gail does an admirable job of putting faces and a compelling storyline to the statistics of how contraception has affected the church and the secular ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-list
I picked this up reading all the acclaim and rave reviews about it and was really looking forward to it. After all, it’s Catholic fiction. However, I gave it three stars and found myself a bit disappointed. The story does keep moving and there are many parts that are compelling and thought-provoking. I had the sensation of being a bit preached to throughout, and I felt like it could have been about half as long and twice as effective. Nevertheless, I’ll be reading the other two books in the seri ...more
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really struggled to get into it. Then just wanted to know what was going to happen but this really proceeded slowly for me. I think I just didn't get much of the male humor or world maybe. But it is an important book. Almost like a historical fiction. We all need to go through this transformation. Especially in this age.
Jun 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The beginning was painful - the ending joyous and promising. Liked the book, loved the issues.
Jun 14, 2012 rated it did not like it
First off let me say I can't decide between one or two stars, so I'll be nice and say
1.5 stars.

Truth be told, the story wasn't the main problem here, although still, that was only okay. The entire point of the story though is just to introduce you to characters and the events of their lives that lead up to the sermon Father John Sweeney gives during the last ten pages of the book, so if you really are just hoping for the author's message, skip the first 534 pages and just sit in the back of you
Aug 10, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pro-life, catholic
Although 536 pages sounds like a lot to get through, this book was a pretty quick read. While it started out seeming contrived and predictable, it got better the further along I read. Perhaps it was the structure of the book that kept me hooked: several story lines progressing simultaneously with each chapter left me eager for the next installment.

First the bad news: The word "cheesy" comes to mind, but only because I thought the characters were stereotypical post-Vatican II American Catholics.
Tess Mertens-Johnson
I think you need knowledge of the Catholic faith to understand much of the motivations and what happens in this book. I am a lifelong Catholic.
This is the story of three people/families set in the 1980s. , Father John Sweeney, a young priest trying to find his path to lead his people. The Burns family with Carol, a homemaker/baby machine and Michael her attorney husband. The Delgado family with mother Fran an alcoholic and husband Joe who wrestles with his conscience over the cable company his b
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fatherless is fiction but at the same time it is a history of the Catholic Church during the latter part of the 20th century. Set in 1985, Fatherless follows Father John Sweeney as parish priest struggling with Church teachings as well as with counseling families whose problems are innumerable. Father Sweeney is the priest that many like; he finds ways to answer the hard questions to make people feel better even if his answers aren't backed by solid doctrine. But during a trip to Rome with fello ...more
Dec 07, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have given this book 4 stars, except for the typos and misspellings. If there is to be a mass audience for "Catholic" or any religious fiction, then the publishers and editors need to make sure that minimally the story is represented without easily corrected errors.

That being said, I really enjoyed this book not only because of the Catholic moral dilemmas presented but also because it took place in the Philadelphia suburbs.

The main characters, Fr. John Sweeney, and 3 of his parishioners
Aug 02, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This reads like one of those free Bud Macfarlane Catholic novels. I liked most of it, but that's because I'm in the choir that he's preaching to. A lot of the science was just delivered in a speech. I can't think of a better way to deliver that crucial information, but it still makes for boring novels. The main male leads were at times interchangeable with their sense of humor and banter. But I think my chief complaint is that the book could have really used better editing. I don't need to have ...more
Martin Moleski
I agree with the author's theology, philosophy, and spirituality. He is an assenting evangelical Catholic.

I prefer to take my cultural analysis in non-fiction form rather than to find it embedded in characters in a novel. The culture of lust brings forth sin and death. It is necessarily at war with the culture of life. The Church is collapsing one living stone at a time as her members choose lust rather than love. Like an alcoholic on a late-stages bender, we are sacrificing everything we have--
Oct 05, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I guess you have to be a devout Catholic to really enjoy this one. It's the story of a young priest trying to reach his wayward parishoners in the early 1980's. The book focuses on three families dealing with different moral issues. I enjoyed each of the subplots, but I could not accept the deeper messages this book was trying to convey. Specifially, I had a very difficult time reading that oral contraception basically causes abortions. While I was familiar with the Church's view on contraceptio ...more
Apr 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't decide between three and four stars... This book was exceedingly fast-paced (I neglected my family for the four days it took to read this), well-written compared to other books by similar authors/genres, and drove home a message sorely needed by our culture. That being said, Bryan Gail is not in the same class of authors as say, Michael O'Brien. I did not like at all that the end of the book was a preface to the second book. It's alright to leave a few loose ends, but not an entire plot, l ...more
Sep 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Gail provides an excellent portrait of the state of the priesthood, the state of the American Catholic Church and Catholics in general. The information he provides on contraception and the Pill is valuable.

I gave this 4 stars because the story was relevant and compelling. However, the writing style leaves much to be desired. There is a lot of technical information on the business of television and marketing, which I understood, having been in that industry, but it all could have been boiled
Feb 24, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic-fiction
This book was pretty good. The story lines were very realistic. It was a good representation of the struggles and divisions within the Catholic Church. I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters, so I kept reading. But at times, the book was cumbersome with too much detailed information about certain businesses, etc. I think this could have been edited down quite a bit. I also was frustrated with some of the characters—their behaviors, etc. Like "Death of a Pope," maybe that is ...more
I liked it. I found the characters engaging and their struggles and foibles very realistic. I thought it was a pretty accurate portrayal of the culture crisis we are in right now. Of course, since it is accurate, it isn't always a happy story, so if you are reading strictly for amusement this probably isn't the book to pick up. It is part of a trilogy and I have started the second book--Motherless--but I have to say I am not enjoying it as much. That might just be because I am looking for someth ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was about halfway through this book before I really began to enjoy it. Another reviewer used the word contrived and I agree with this. I enjoyed the human stories midway through to the end of the book, and found myself encouraged by the journeys of conversion. However, I am not particularly convinced by the dialogues among the clergy, and this is where I feel the book is most contrived. I found some of the prose dealing with church history tedious, bogging the story down.
Dec 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book in desperate need of a skilled editor. Lots of chaff that could have been trimmed, and very preachy in some parts but I still enjoyed it very much and appreciated an honest critique of the Church from someone who clearly loves her very much, warts and all. Looking forward to the rest of the trilogy.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, spiritual
Engrossing & compelling narrative, with characters that I actually cared about. Firmly entrenched in Catholic moral teachings, this book will open the eyes of those willing to see. It presents facts, not propaganda, about some of the evils tearing down our society, & does so with a story that is difficult to put down.
Mar 05, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this for my book group (formerly Bible study). It was a painless way to cover an interesting religious topic (contraception, etc.) but the writing was just OK and we had a great time calling out all the anachronisms, etc. I really don't recommend it, unless you haven't got anything better to read.
Audrey Ahern
A book is more than a moral message - no matter how strongly you agree with it. As a love of *good* Catholic fiction, I wanted to like this book, but I got tired of being preached at. To me, a great Catholic novel presents the truth in a way that is accessible and appealing to all, not simply to those who already agree with you. Sadly, this book is (monotonously)preaching to the choir.
Elisa Horinek
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a good way. No longer can we turn our heads at what is really happening in our American culture. This book brings to light the many difficulties faced by one parish priest and his struggle to bring fallen away Catholics home to the Church. I have yet to read the 2 sequels but I would like to soon!
Now, I'm 2/3 through this one.

Although his novel is compelling, he needed a good editor to help him say things more clearly and to trim it down. It's a very long book for the number of characters and time span involved.

I've especially enjoyed one character's conversation with Pope John Paul II. I found I underlined most of it.
Apr 20, 2011 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Just started reading the book. I love Gail's style of writing. The most interesting aspect of the book to me is climbing inside the head of a somewhat mediocre (average) priest. The character development is interesting. So far, so good.
Dec 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fascinating book about the Catholic church during the 80's. It is fiction based on real events in the church and in the U.S. If you are a pro-life Catholic, you will love reading this book. Very suspenseful, easy to read.
Katrina Becker
Sigh. Here again, a love/hate relationship with this book. It makes several striking points and overall has a great plot, but falls into cliches and oh-so-occasionally condescending moments. Basically, with a careful editing, this could be a fantastic book.
Mike Lutz
Oct 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For confused and concerned Catholics

The author nails many of the challenges facing those trying to live lives faithful to their Catholic commitment. No holds barred; no simplistic scenarios.
Oct 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent story of today's faithful. Though devout Catholics might find it somewhat a review of what they can see is going on in the Church and society as the two "collide," I found it be very interesting -- good characters, realistic.
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