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The Gospel of Winter

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A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 21, 2014

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About the author

Brendan Kiely

11 books260 followers
Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York. His writing has appeared in Fiction, Guernica, The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

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5 stars
183 (23%)
4 stars
293 (37%)
3 stars
208 (26%)
2 stars
79 (9%)
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28 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 168 reviews
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
January 31, 2014
Wow. This is a powerful, emotionally moving, and fantastic book.

Sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan has always existed on the fringes of things. A loner more content to snort Adderall and read by himself, as his wealthy parents' marriage disintegrates, he's more comfortable with Elena, their housekeeper, than his parents or friends his own age. He doesn't have any patience for the dishonesty or non-genuineness of the community where he lives.

"Nobody ever said I don't know or I'm afraid, and they acted like the masks they wore were their real faces and that they could sustain themselves forever on their own self-assurance—like they really believed they didn't need anybody else. What was that John Donne poem we read in Weinstein's class, 'No Man Is An Island'? Not here. We were a goddamn social archipelago that called itself a community. Why did I feel like I was the only one who lived in a nightmare? What was worse was that I knew people did have fears."

The only place Aidan truly feels comfortable is at his church, Most Precious Blood, as Father Greg, the local priest, is the only person who seems to care about or listen to him. As he starts making friends with a trio of his classmates—Josie, the charismatic girl on whom he's had a crush for some time; Sophie, the wild but friendly girl with a reputation; and Mark, the swim team captain with issues of his own which mirror Aidan's in more ways than he knows—Aidan starts to feel a little more comfortable in his own skin.

As Aidan balances the comfort of his new friends with his discomfort about his home life, he starts to realize that Father Greg's affections are not just directed at him alone, and while he mourns the feeling that he is no longer special, he also grapples with the reality of what the priest has done. What does that make him? Would telling people, admitting what has happened, make those in his community blame and think less of him, as the priests have led him to believe? Can he just pretend that nothing happened?

Aidan's community—and the nation—begin confronting the revelations about sexual abuse by priests, and people want to know if Aidan was affected, what he knew, but he'd rather ignore the whole thing, despite the toll it takes on his own psyche and those around him. Only as he realizes the true consequences, and what could lie ahead for him depending on the path he chooses, does he realize that there are other people who care about and love him.

"I thought about how people like Old Donovan and Father Greg and teachers and even Mother and Elena tried to give me advice about who I was supposed to be and what kind of person I was supposed to become, but looking at Josie, I wondered if it didn't all come down to something simpler: Are you the kind of person who is there for people when they need you, or not? Isn't it in those moments when you have to work harder than you thought you could to reach out to another person, and you do, that you finally find the you who's been hiding behind the mask all that time? Is it there, finally truly naked, and reaching for one another, that we create the chance to hold one another again? And what about the chance to love again? Do we get to create that possibility too?"

This was a phenomenal book. Its subject matter was difficult, but Brendan Kiely's use of language and his storytelling ability captivated me completely. I loved Aidan's character and felt so much pain and hope for him. I could definitely identify with some of his thoughts and fears and hopes, as I remember feeling similarly as a teenager. I devoured this book, reading nearly the entire thing in one day. It was just such a beautiful, powerful, painful yet hopeful story, and I hope this gets the attention—and the readership—it so truly deserves.
Profile Image for Russell Sanders.
Author 10 books15 followers
April 8, 2014
Oh, how I wanted to adore The Gospel of Winter: its complex main character, its setting among the very rich in Connecticut, its flawed parents, its eloquent prose. I began reading with such high expectations, and for at least three quarters of the novel, I was “buying it,” despite seeing the book’s flaws. But that last quarter, when I wanted the story to propel to the end, I got bogged down in the author’s verbosity. Lovely verbosity, but verbosity nevertheless. The protagonist, prep school Sophomore Aidan, is intelligent and tortured. He tells the story, and that’s where I was stymied. His vocabulary and syntax are so far above what I, in my thirty year teaching career, encountered in even the most intelligent teens that I just didn’t buy it. For example, in a fantasy about his girlfriend, he says, “I wanted to cinch up the knot in my tie, kiss her on the brow, and tell her to enjoy her day.” What teen would even think of that, albeit a fantasy? Of a snowfall, he waxes, “Beyond the trees, nothing broke through the deadening, washed-out expanse above.” To describe a dog: “A dog with a slow baritone barked.” This is a young man with the vocabulary and skill of a fine writer. The author Brendan Kiely is just that in his word combinations, but his characterization, to me, is way off. I simply can’t picture any of the thousands of teens I’ve known who would speak this way. And I can only picture a handful of those teens sophisticated and knowledgeable in literary fiction to enjoy this novel. It is supposed to be a young adult novel, but it strives to be Fitzgerald or Hemingway. I can only hope that its author moves on to adult fiction and finds his niche in that genre. A side note: although I fully understood the teen characters smoking, pot use, prescription drug abuse and liquoring up as character development tools, I got weary of it. Yes, they are upper class, wealthy kids from a prep school, but are we to believe that all kids of this ilk are drug and alcohol addled, that the only tools to fight their angst are illegal substances? As a YA writer myself, I’m not above using these tools, but they were so pervasive in this tale, that it really bothered me.
Profile Image for Craig Allen.
291 reviews18 followers
February 13, 2014
A very powerful story about a young man betrayed by his priest and how it changes his outlook on everything he knew to be true. Aidan, the central character is from a wealthy family with an absent father and a dramatic mother. He has always found comfort in his church, but soon begins to realize that the affection shown by Father Greg towards him is not only very wrong, unlawful, and awful, but also directed at other boys in the church. Aidan's acceptance of this truth and his dealings with the other characters is great--really enjoyed this book and it's portrayal of how things aren't always as they seem to be and the meaning of masks we ALL wear amongst the people in our lives in what we put out into the world.
Profile Image for Elena.
538 reviews
December 20, 2013
This book had such a rough start that I will openly admit to not finishing. The characters are extreme stereotypes. The situations they encounter and their dialogue have a contrived feel versus a realistic one.
Profile Image for Ashley Love.
7 reviews
March 22, 2021
I so did not like the ending of this book! So many questions! What happened to Mark ?
What happened to Father Greg?
How did Aidens mom react to him telling her the truth .. if he even did ! Did she help him ? Did she yell or cry, was she angry ?

So many more things and possibles running in my mind. Such a bad ending to a great story that could’ve had a more powerful message. At times I felt the story dragging it was up until the last few chapters where I really got into it. I couldn’t put it down.

I think a sequel would be great ! If one doesn’t already exist it should be done.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Wendy.
2,322 reviews40 followers
April 1, 2014
" The Gospel of Winter" which I won from Goodreads Giveaways is a compelling and emotionally-charged novel that deals with a sensitive and complex subject with stark honesty and realism. As the story opens sixteen year old Aidan Donovan, a boy from an affluent family fractured by betrayal and separation is struggling to make sense of the abuse he suffered at the hands of a local priest; someone he expected guidance, security and assurance from. Haunted by the shadow of evil, lies and secrecy that have deformed his life, and afraid to reach out for help, Aidan has found a crutch in drugs and alcohol. In his deteriorating world he struggles to find a sense stability and normalcy, and clings to his friendship with Mark, Josie and Sophie only to find the darkness of the past creeping in and threatening the newly forged bond.

Boldly, Brendan Kiely deals tactfully and candidly with an explosive issue that has been headlined in newspapers repeatedly. The plot is well-developed and narrated from Aidan's viewpoint; a boy struggling with the degradation of abuse, the sting of losing his trust and faith,and the uncertainty about his future. This is a riveting page turner marked by graphic language as Aidan and his friend Mark, tormented by a shameful secret,unable to open up to their self-centered parents, each seek a way to deal with their fear and suffering. This is not a story of religious faith gone awry, but a burning lesson that in this secular world and even in anointed positions in the Church there are unscrupulous, sick men who use love and scripture as a weapon to dominant, control and abuse. In this powerful story Brendan Kiely adroitly not only tackles the destructiveness of clerical abuse but touches on the violence and aggression associated with bullying and the fear of homophobia. But even in darkness there is a light of triumph which he blends in with elements of friendship, courage, forgiveness and deliverance.

The characters are well-developed, complex and realistic. Aidan Donovan shattered not only by abuse but the brokenness of his home life is reclusive, morose, fearful and lacking in self -confidence. With the help of his friends he begins to change gathering courage and strength to confront not only his fear but the truth. Gwen Donovan, his mother is a self-absorbed social butterfly struggling to build a life after her separation and ignorant of her son's problems until jealousy over Aidan's love for their devoted and affectionate housekeeper brings an abrupt awakening. T.J. (Old) Donovan his father is a selfish, cold, indifferent workaholic who betrays his family. In a blossoming friendship with Mike Kowalski, Aidan finds a kindred spirit. A popular co-captain on the swim team, Mike seems confident, cool, and self-assured, masking a soul broken by abuse and traumatized by a controlling, manipulative father. Josie Fenton is a young woman with a strong personality and a warm, caring heart, while Sophie Harrington is a little wild, overconfident and cynical. Into this mix add the blatant acceptance and insensitive cover-up of an old priest and the cruelty and sickness of a sexual predator.

All these characters bring passion, intensity and reality to an intriguing and captivating, debut novel which I couldn't put down and rate highly.
Profile Image for Bella.
475 reviews15 followers
March 14, 2016
{originally posted on my blog: Ciao Bella}

+ Gripping, relevant story on a topic not often seen in YA The movie Spotlight recently snagged the Best Picture award at this year’s Oscars ceremony. The title was well-deserved, as the acting was phenomenal, the directing superb, and the story both true and engrossing. When I picked up The Gospel of Winter, I hadn’t realized that it focused on the same event, the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal first reported in Boston, but a few chapters in and I was immersed in the emotional, saddening storyline, just as I was with the film. Abuse, loss of innocence, and secrecy are not unknown topics in young adult literature – in fact, I’d argue they’re common elements in gritty contemporary novels – but I’ve yet to see them threaded in the same setting as Kiely’s debut. Snaps there.

+ Gut-wrenching and fully developed themes In a similar vein, Kiely doesn’t lose the importance of exploring various themes throughout the novel as he crafts a disheartening atmosphere. The Gospel of Winter is very much a literary novel, that is, prose and messages are emphasized over the action of the plot; read a passage, and you’ll come to the same conclusion. It’s a novel that deserves to be read twice for this reason alone – Kiely allows the themes of betrayal and tradition and intense hurt to define the story and with it, the audience’s reactions. Such controlled use of themes is difficult for even a seasoned author, so it’s a promising sign for any of Kiely’s future publications.

+ A compelling, well-drawn cast of characters Of course, characters are just as significant of elements in a book, a fact Kiely recognizes as he develops the protagonist, Aidan, and the individuals in Aidan’s life: his mom, who keeps a facade up for the rest of society; his housekeeper, who struggles to choose between what she believes and what is right; his newfound friends, all of whom have problems of their own that plague them. I have a soft spot for characters from highbrow society – I find the culture fascinating to read about – but even my bias doesn’t discount the alluring nature of their respective stories. Aidan’s narration isn’t perfect, but it does invite you into the plot and offers a method in which to experience his pain, faith, and eventually, hope.

+ Story often weighed down by sophisticated vocabulary and structure Where my enjoyment falters is in the book’s language. It’s verbose, oddly refined for what is supposed to be the voice of a teenage boy. Unfortunately, the jarring nature – what is written versus what is expected – can pull the reader from the story; you’re less focused on Aidan’s haunting narration as you are on deciphering exactly what is being said. Fortunately, however, after reading Kiely’s All-American Boys {a novel he shares with author Jason Reynolds}, I’ve come to think it was a skill that only required some practice – and one that is sure to be further improved in his third release, The Last True Love Story, when it hits shelves in September.
Profile Image for Stephanie.
396 reviews
January 21, 2014
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

My Summary: Aiden is living in the midst of what some would describe as their worst nightmare. With his already unstable home life crumbling more and more every day, Aiden begins to self-medicate. However, the alcohol and drugs can't fill the hole inside his heart, so Aiden begins talking to Father Greg about the demons that haunt him.

But when Father Greg's true motives for befriending Aiden are revealed, he attempts to escape the memories of what happened through a group of friends who offer more support than he's ever gotten from his family. And although he may try to hide it, Aiden can sense that Mark may know just what he went through... and together, they may just be able to help each other heal.

My Thoughts: This novel was so hard to put down. The second I stopped reading, I was plagued with questions about what would happen to Aiden and had to pick it up and continue.

Aiden was such a likable character, and you couldn't help but sympathize as you watched him struggle to navigate the obstacles he faced - those of growing up as well as those due to the situations he'd been put into. The writing was incredibly honest while also flowing like prose. I liked that you were placed right in the center of the plot right from the start - I was hooked within minutes.

The topic of clerical abuse was dealt with very gracefully in this novel. The focus was not so much on the abuse or abuser but on the healing process, and how important support from loved ones is in getting on with your life - in my opinion, it was a great approach to dealing with a usually taboo subject.

Final Thoughts: Definitely check out The Gospel of Winter if you're a fan of contemporary literature or are just looking for a novel that hits your heart in all the right places.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
645 reviews56 followers
July 20, 2015
I picked up this book because the cover was beautiful and the title intrigued me. Sadly, those were the only good things about this book. It was obvious within the first three pages that this was the author's first novel, and that was largely because the book just jumped between major plot points without any of the rise and fall you might expect and, quite frankly, hope to find in any well-written book. In light of the heavy, morose subject matter, I feel this was exceptionally poor planning on the author's part, as the heaviness and reality of the protagonist's situation didn't really hit home until like, the last page. Also, the whole "addicted to Adderall" thing really didn't add anything to the book, and merely served as another thing I had to remember than real character development. Actually, no characters were really developed, and it felt like I was being injected into the middle of a poorly-thought out idea rather than reading a book that had been developed from start to finish. #woof
Profile Image for MeggieBree.
246 reviews21 followers
October 8, 2014

This is a powerfully written book. I applaud the author for telling this story. It was hard to read at times because it was pretty raw, so I can imagine that writing it must have been tough. It was very well-written, and while the characters were flawed, they were not unlikeable, just real. I think he did a great job at portraying teenagers and I was brought back to my younger years when my conflicting desires to be normal and to stand out, or be myself, were constantly at war.

My favourite quote from the book:

"The problem is that you don't always get to write your own story. You get written into some stories, and if you ask why, there isn't an answer. You don't have any control, because the forces at work are too large to confront, and sometimes too large even to understand."

I received this copy from a Goodreads giveaway, thanks Goodreads!
Profile Image for April.
357 reviews
April 8, 2014
Well, this is one of the toughest books I've read since my term finished on Amelia Bloomer Project. That reading exposed me to so many powerful stories of women and girls overcoming horrible abuse to find the empowerment of their voices-- and this book deserves equal attention. The Catholic priest sex scandal was/is gut wrenching in it's long-spread, long-term effects, and the author here very bravely puts out a story filled with tough images, tough characters, and thankfully enough resolution in the very last pages to keep the reader from feeling *completely* despondent. As with other stories like this, we just hope it gets into the right hands at the right time. We should spread the word so caring adults know this title exists.
Profile Image for Sarah Krajewski.
1,013 reviews
February 4, 2016
Quiet, loner, Aidan Donovan may come from money, but he is struggling to stay sane. His father recently left for good, and his mother has more important things to worry about than to pay any attention to him. So Aidan turns to Father Greg, the only person that truly listens to him. At least, that's what he thinks. At Christmas he meets up with Josie, Sophie, and Mark, who are three other teens that go to his private school. It's their adventures that lead him to start thinking about what's really going on in his life. It's only then that he begins to see the darker, more sinister, side of "love." A tough topic to read about, but wonderfully written!
9 reviews
February 19, 2021
How do you find and keep faith when your religious system has harmed you? How can you recognize real, genuine love when all you've known is warped, fucked up facsimiles of it? How are you supposed to be who you are when it feels like it's been stolen straight out of you? Damn, dude.
Profile Image for Mari Anne.
1,338 reviews24 followers
February 21, 2014
Way more adult than YA, this book was depressing and didn't really redeem itself even at the end. I found everything about it to be hard to read and stomach. Not one I would recommend.
Profile Image for Katharine Holden.
854 reviews10 followers
July 29, 2014
Not believable. Main character is supposed to be a teenager, but he sounds like he's a 45 year old professor. All of the characters are one note. Plot development is limited and contrived.
Profile Image for Louisa.
6,907 reviews31 followers
December 19, 2014
Such a great book, set from Christmas 2001, to early 2002, and I'm pretty sure that whole Catholic scandal that happened in the books, happened then in real life, and yeah, just a really good book!
Profile Image for Reviews May Vary.
1,188 reviews95 followers
February 17, 2016
A difficult and powerful read. It took me a bit to get into it, finding the main character as generally unrelatable and unlikable. But then, like in real life, you get to know the story.
Profile Image for Hannah Tiffany.
122 reviews
February 5, 2019
Hannah Tiffany
February 3, 2019
Goodreads Review of "The Gospel of Winter"

"The Gospel of Winter" stuns readers with an intense story told from the perspective of sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan. After Aidan’s father leaves, he becomes involved in his church and leans on Father Greg during this time of crisis. As time goes on Aidan starts to realize that what is between him and Father Greg is not what the church would call holy. This pushes Aidan into a crisis, causing him to have to rediscover who is. With the help of the new friends he has made, Aidan goes on a journey of self-discovery after seeing his whole world fall apart. "The Gospel of Winter" shows a journey of acceptance and healing, a journey towards realizing what true love is and also how love can be used against people. It is a raw and powerful story that will make readers not want to put the book down.

According to the Lexile and ATOS scores, the reading level of this book is fourth grade. I agree that the sentences and vocabulary are not the most complex, it is an easy read, but the subject matter is not fourth grade. Lexile acknowledges this and says the age range is between 14 and 17. The book deals with sexual abuse in the church and also drug and alcohol abuse. The book has dark themes scattered throughout which are not good for fourth graders to be reading. This book is for high school students. Aidan is a sophomore in high school so this book is aimed at kids his age to be reading it. This book is good for readers who understand this kind of stuff happens in the world. It is terrible but there can be hope. I would not suggest this book for a reader that may have had past sexual abuse because it could be very triggering. This book brings up a lot of questions about religion and the role of the church and priests in young people’s lives. If a child is Catholic, they may find some of this book hard to read because it does attack the Catholic Church. It can also be a great discussion opener about the wrongs committed in the Catholic Church, of how the religion has moved forward. This book is a great read if a class is discussing abuse and how love can be used against people as well as how religion can be used to hurt people. I think some of the subject matter is a bit too dark for a reader to just read it on their own and not have a group discussion.

I love this book. It had everything I needed it to have as a reader. I loved Aidan as a character, he was broken and tortured which I really enjoyed. He was smart and I felt he was real, he wasn’t good or bad. This book was engaging, I couldn’t put it down and when I did all I could think about was Aidan and where I had left him. I really loved the talk about religion. My father is Catholic so I knew quite a bit about the church. I am Lutheran and have gone to church almost every Sunday my entire life. I was in Sunday school and confirmation. This book never made me question my faith but it did shed light on how people can use the words of God to manipulate and hurt. I think the only weakness of the book is that we never got a resolution, to Aidan or his drug problems. The ending suggests maybe hope but Aidan is still doing drugs and he is still hurting. I was unsatisfied with the ending, I wanted an epilogue. I have always loved broken and hurting boys in my fiction. Aidan fit right in there, he obviously had PTSD from the abuse and I just wanted to hold him. I like when books can take a strong male character and make me want to take care of them. Aidan needed a hug throughout the whole book. It was like seeing my younger brother hurting and I could not do anything about it. I fell for this book because I saw similarities with other characters I love and with my own brother. My brother has never been abused but it seems like many teenage boys just have this anger and sadness built up inside of them. They will not talk to people and when they let it out, it is let out in anger. I like how the author captured that feature and then heightened it from the abuse that Aidan had received. I highly recommend this book, it will make the reader think and feel.
Profile Image for Ricardo Trindade |.
347 reviews30 followers
January 9, 2023
Um tema tabu de que não se fala, mesmo sabendo que existe entre vários núcleos fortes da igreja. A pedofilia existe no seio religioso e isso não é segredo para ninguém. Claro que ninguém pode generalizar tanto com este crime como para com outros, mas que existe e tem de ser debatido, lá disso não existem dúvidas.
Confissões de Inverno retrata a vida de um jovem adolescente que após perceber que o pai é uma figura ausente e a mãe opta por circular por festas e eventos onde pode dar nas vistas, acaba por encontrar refúgio na casa paroquial da vila. Como mentor encontra um homem aceite pelas pessoas por aparentar tranquilidade e paz enquanto padre, sendo um confidente, amigo e ouvinte. Mas será que este padre é afinal o que parece ou terá muito a esconder perante os temas que apresenta aos mais novos na cave da casa onde habita com o sacerdote mais velho?
Um jovem desamparado em termos familiares e que acaba por cair nos braços perigosos de uma pessoa que aparenta a todos ser de confiança pela função que desempenha. O que é o Amor para um rapaz que está à descoberta dos sentimentos e que acaba por perceber mais tarde que a aproximação, os abraços e apertos que enfrenta no escuro, encostado a uma mesa, são afinal uma obrigação para satisfazer os desejos de um adulto que não consegue controlar as suas perversas vontades. O que um adolescente cria na sua mente quando é levado a crer que tais comportamentos são os mais corretos no momento de evoluir como pessoa? Quem poderá estar a par de tudo o que acontece nos sucessivos encontros? O que fazer quando se percebe que não se está sozinho e que aquele segredo que vai prevalecendo enfrenta o complexo e medo ao mesmo tempo que está a um passo de ser descoberto por todos?
Uma família ausente, uma empregada preocupada mas que nada pode fazer, amigos que enfrentam os mesmos problemas. Afinal o que passa na mente de cada ser violado e usado no momento da fuga que dia após dia resiste como um sentimento de culpa, revolta e nojo? O caminho do bem é desorganizado, as drogas e o álcool ganham um maior destaque como tentativa de esquecimento e o que sobrevive no interior de uma pessoa que cresce sem alegria e com uma tensão social que pode fazer com que tudo desmorone num segundo? Um tema bastante delicado para ser debatido várias vezes porque este flagelo existe mas o que também existe é o medo de falar, para mais com a igreja católica que tão bons conselhos tem a obrigação de dar no centro da questão.
Uma criação sem medo, com um forte poder de contar sem revelar de frente o que se está realmente a passar perante o olhar do leitor. Tudo é contado de forma suave, sem chocalhar, sendo feito uso das suposições para que cada um coloque os atos contados no nível que acredita que possam estar a acontecer. Confissões de Inverno é daqueles livros que retrata a realidade, uma realidade escondida e abafada, não existindo medo de enfrentar o poder e ser abafado por isso. Brendan Kiely está de Parabéns por este excelente trabalho que dá vontade de pegar e logo terminar, para que se perceba como o drama de Aidan termina para com tudo o que vai enfrentando com o que lhe é feito, gerando os seus próprios comportamentos e receios para com os outros. A questão sobre quem é, o que é, o que quer e o que realmente sente pelo próximo são debatidos de forma individual nesta narrativa contada de maneira simples e eficaz.
Uma história surpreendente e que gera um conflito de sentimentos pelos atos e suas repercussões no futuro de cada um. Sem dúvida alguma que este será um dos meus livros do ano.
Profile Image for Lynn.
1,464 reviews40 followers
May 8, 2020
Today’s post is on The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely. It is 296 pages long and is published by Margaret K. McElderry Books. The cover is grey with a shadow of a young man behind the title which is red. The intended reader is someone who is interesting in issues books, books about dealing with sexual abuse, or are interesting the Catholic priest scandal from the eyes of a victim. There is mild foul language, drug use, talk of sex and sexual abuse, and no violence in this novel. The story is told from the first person perspective of the main character Aidan. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps on Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg- the only adult who actually listens to him.
When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girls he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

Review- With a topic this intense it could be easy to mishandle it but Kiely does not do that. He handles this story with concern but he does not tone down the seriousness of the topic. It is not graphic but the reader knows what is happening when Aidan has a flashback or when he hears Father Greg with his new boy. Aidan is very troubled and has no idea about what to do. He does not want to deal with it, he wants to pretend that nothing happened to him, and then just move on with his life. But as we travel with Aidan, we see just how much Aidan is suffering from his past. Aidan is trying forget doing that with Adderall and alcohol but he is just drowning in his pain and it's not working. When he starts to make some friends who all having problems too that’s when things start to unravel for his inner life. Mark was once Father Greg’s boy too and he is trying to deal with that and being gay. Aidan and Mark are both dancing around what happened to them and they have different ways of dealing with it. The story does not have a real resolution but more of an open ended close and that feels accurate to real life. I do recommend this book for older teens and adults who want to look at the Catholic sex scandal from a different angle.

I give this novel a Four out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and borrowed this book from my local library.
Profile Image for Tita.
1,921 reviews183 followers
February 10, 2018
Iniciei-me na leitura com as expectativas muito mas muito baixas e chegada ao final, devo dizer que a leitura foi bem mais agradável do que estava à espera.
Acho que um dos principais factores para opiniões mais negativas é a forma como nos foi "vendido", pois sempre ouvi dizer que o livro era sobre o abuso sexual por parte dos padres. E sim, era o factor que me deixava curiosa. É certo que o tema dos abusos sexuais está presente na história mas acaba por não ser o tópico principal.
O nosso protagonista é Aiden, um jovem de 16 anos, de classe alta, mas com alguns problemas familiares e pessoais. Sendo um YA, tem uma escrita simples e bem acessível.
Mas, tal como comentei, a história não se foca nos abusos sexuais no sei da Igreja mas sim, na vida de Aiden e nos seus problemas.

Foi uma leitura mais agradável do que esperava.
Profile Image for Emily.
878 reviews22 followers
July 1, 2019
This book was told from the spinning mind of a confused boy trying to figure things out. It felt similar to the stream of conscious that I remember from Catcher in the Rye (which I read a very long time ago). It was a tough read for me both because of the topic and because of the style. The poor main character has been abused in many ways that all were portrayed very believably. Only he seems like a fully fleshed out character, but that could have been intentional - as it's told from the perspective of someone who felt removed from life possibly he just wouldn't see people around him in 3 dimensions. The book unfortunately comes to a very pat ending which acknowledges only some of the abuse he's suffered, as if the author just couldn't see the poor kid suffer anymore and wanted to make it better before he ended the book.
Profile Image for Susie.
1,170 reviews
October 6, 2017
Ouch. I mean, whoa. And damn. This was a tough tough read for me, but so so very worth it to make it through. Someone I adore as much as one person can adore another was abused by a priest as a teen and it has profoundly affected his life. I can only dream of what joy he might take from life if he had ever told his truth to anyone but me and his best friend. Might he be more open, physically healthier, less focused on unhealthy coping mechanisms and a brutal sense of humor to get him through life? I don't know. But this book helped me understand him better. So much better. And I appreciate the thoughtfulness with which this horrible subject was explored.

Thanks, Mr. Kiely. This book mattered to me.
Profile Image for Sandi Ward.
Author 3 books196 followers
February 6, 2019
This is a very powerful and gripping story of one young man coming to terms with his abuse at the hands of a charming, younger priest at his local Catholic church. It becomes easy to see how a teen could be victimized, as so many were/are.

The book does a fantastic job of getting in the head of Aidan, a precocious teen who just wants it all to go away, but finds he can't forget what was done in the name of "love" and worries that it has broken him somehow forever. The writing was fluid and pulled me through the story with ease; the character's emotions were so raw that I had to take a break every few pages toward the end. Despite the heavy topic, I really loved the story and the way it was written.
Profile Image for Vivien O..
10 reviews1 follower
August 9, 2021
Wow. This book speak over a current topic. The characters are realistic and the story too. It hurts that this happen in our world and I don't know why people do/did this, so it's important to explain people that this happen. It's not ok, and it's not right and I think it's really hard to speak over this, if this happened to you. I don't like how Aidan sometimes react but I think it's because he's abuse, and everybody would react like him. I like it too, because it's explain that Fathers can abuse boys too. It was sometimes hard to read, because I know that it can be real and I want to help but I don't know how. So I leave this review and say, that you have to know that same thing happen in this horrible world.
The book is realistic and good.
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