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Via Negativa

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  238 ratings  ·  53 reviews
A heartfelt, daring, divinely hilarious debut novel about a priest who embarks on a fateful journey with a pistol in his pocket and an injured coyote in his backseat.

Father Dan is homeless. Dismissed by his conservative diocese for eccentricity and insubordination, he's made his exile into a kind of pilgrimage, transforming his Toyota Camry into a mobile monk's cell. Like
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 11th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  238 ratings  ·  53 reviews

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Sep 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: e-books
A short blurb in the NY Times Book Review made this sounded interesting, and the 4.24 average rating on Goodreads clinched this. Sadly, I was bored with Hornsby's tale of a retired, repentant Catholic priest (Father Dan) and his trip westward to reconnect with two sets of friends, and to deliver a final message to a former colleague. Along the way, he nurses a coyote back to health after it was hit by a car. Essentially, his meandering thoughts and guilt about what he did and did not do as a pr ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sometimes you like a book so much from the very first page that you read the whole thing with your breath held, hoping it doesn't stumble and disappoint you. Fortunately, Via Negativa retains its footing. Its plot is relatively simple: you're in the company of a retired priest named Father Dan, who's been kicked out of his rectory for being too liberal for church leaders (and also kind of a weirdo). Dan's living in his Toyota Camry, driving west on a mission deliberately ill-defined. On the firs ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A surprisingly self-assured first novel, Via Negativa tells the story of Fr. Dan, a rather heterodox priest who is ousted from his retirement in Indiana and sets off on a road trip across the U.S., stopping along the way to explore kitschy tourist attractions and rescue an injured coyote. This is not a novel about events so much as it is about ruminations on faith, how it is lost and how it is maintained. As the title suggests, this is also as much about what is not said as it is about what is. ...more
Lucas Garner
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I happened upon this book quite randomly. I was at B&N and just happened to see the cover, became intrigued, read the first page, and knew that I had to buy it. I rarely buy full-price hardcover books without knowing the author or it being a recommendation, but I’m so glad I took the chance with this one. Via Negativa is the debut novel of Daniel Hornsby, and what a stellar way to enter the literary world. What works best here is Hornsby’s patient and philosophical prose. This isn’t a fast paced ...more
This book was beautiful from start to finish in such a plain yet deeply contemplative way. From the first chapter, it's clear Dan is not necessarily the most practical person to take on the task of a road trip, but the odyssey begins nevertheless. Its humour arises in the ridiculous moments Dan comes across others, especially when his almost naïve, hesitant goodwill gets him into questionable situations. In large part, the book is in limbo, as Dan drives across the country with no particular age ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
*Thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Publishing for the advance copy!!*

I've been reading so many ARCs through Net Galley lately and I would count this among the best.

The synopsis of this book had me at “road trip.” Father Dan finds himself now homeless after being let go by his conservative Catholic Church without reassignment. He decides to drive out to Seattle, where former parishioners and friends of his now live, to start a new life. The book chronicles his journey from Indiana to Washington.
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
sharply observed Midwestern retired priest road trip novel that does not shy away from any of the reasons why you might resist wanting to read a novel about a priest. novel about regret and long love for friends. the prose is talky and direct at the same time, which I love, and really I can't think of another debut novel that's similar. The Andre pages are exactly the kind of writing I'm always looking for. ...more
Rhiannon Nehl
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is by far my favorite read of 2020 so far!
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it
conflicted on this! as both a former catholic and lifelong kansan, I appreciated and enjoyed how clearly the author’s experience living in kansas shone through and his commentary on catholicism! it was cool having that connection to the story. on the other hand, the main character and story lacked the depth that would’ve made it feel more real. I liked what the story was trying to do and many passages and scenes hit hard. but I was ultimately left wanting a little more out of this book.
Sandy Plants

I picked this without reading any reviews/ratings of it; without knowing the context—I guess just by looking at the name and cover: I like bright colours :)

This was fun and gentle to read with lots of good insights about how people respond to traumas and pain. It took me a while to get on board with the writing and the character, but by the middle I was riding that train and loving it.
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this for work and it was low-key wild. But also extremely religious, but not in a suffocating way. I really enjoyed the Father's narration and the ending. ...more
Gary Branson
Aug 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Little character depth made this a slower than necessary read. The struggles of the protagonist were not explored very well and the drug use tedious. The ending also seemed rather anti-climactic. There are moments of beautiful writing and this could have elevated a better thought out character study.
William Baker
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book made me love life, warts and all, more.
Daryna Yakusha
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a Novel with a capital 'N.' Sure there's a narrative and thing A happens and then thing B happens but something about the prose and the theme elevates it to something that feels like an instant classic, like something that will be on syllabuses and summer reading lists 50, 100 years from now. There's something simultaneously harsh and very tender about it, that reminds me of Catcher in the Rye, if nothing else. It's the kind of book that makes you think about your own relationship w ...more
Kathleen Gray
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An unusual read. Daniel is a priest who has lost his flock and now is on a road trip to the West Coast. In between Indiana and Seattle, he comes upon an injured coyote which he rescues and puts in his back seat. The two of them then embark on an unusual road trip that is less about the physical journey than the people he meets. There's some quite philosophical musings here, as can be expected, but it never gets so deep that you lose the thread of the plot. What's with the pistol and the bullets? ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, fiction
I loved this book. Funny in a sad way, sad in a funny way, really beautiful, and deeply moving.
Jan 01, 2021 rated it really liked it
A retired priest goes off on a road trip to deal with his life and its failings and to make sense of it. Very well written, thoughtful and unique.
Dec 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Beautiful lyricism and imagery throughout the entire book. It read like a melancholy whimsical dream. Hornsby was able to capture the feeling of the open road, the heaven of a mountain hike, the tense agony of tough conversations and describe the monolithic church with such intimacy that even non-believers like me feel some sense of awe. Reality weaves differently within this book.

At the same time, the issues addressed were hard to read. It was hard to pick up on the age of the narrator. He was
Erin Tuzuner
People say the devil is in the details, making the bigger/biggest picture G-D pulse and glow in harmonic expansion. The longer the journey, the greater the details, as evidenced by our wayward padre mired in the guilt of his past and the propulsion of his longing for meaning.
Jennifer Cunningham
Sep 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was a joy to read. I loved the unique narrative and setting. I learned a lot about religion and Catholicism, in particular, with this little novel. A bonus for me as a Kansas native was that this road trip features several reality-inspired stops in my home state which made it extra fun. For a first novel, I thought it was fantastic. My main issue with this book was that I wanted more of Priest Dan’s internal reflections and contemplations about his faith rather than the focus on the tr ...more
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fun, short, and unique read.
Jul 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book, well written and fascinating. The author is a talented storyteller and the characters are fascinating.
It's story that kept me hooked, moved and made me smile.
One of the best debut in a long time.
Strongly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Sep 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2020
I really enjoyed this strange little book. The priest's description of the children's religious artwork at the nursing home was so funny I nearly choked. My only problem is that the end is abrupt. Thought I missed something. I don't mind an open ending, but that was confusing. Guess it fits such an odd book. ...more
J. Bill
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Highly recommend for the right readers -- can't say more until my review appears in the Englewood Review of Books. :) ...more
Devin Kelly
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sweet, weird, witness-filled, contemplative. A really moving novel about moving through the world and inside the world and feeling life is both beauty and penance. This one holds so much.
Vanessa (V.C.)
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I hardly remember the last time when a novel grabbed me so quick and instantly. Most of the time it takes many chapters for me to get sucked in, but Via Negativa did it from the first page, and I ultimately read this so fast, in just about a day! I'm not even a fan of road trip novels, but this one was so instantly inviting and it was so hard to put down. Everything about it felt so familiar in a way that I even felt at home with it - with Father Dan and his coyote companion that he names Bede. ...more
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Elena Rastvorova
Aug 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I liked about the book is the clear narration which is easily followed. It's a quick and involving read. The best part is the ugly side of the church which is vividly depicted here.
What I didn't fancy was the lack of touching events (maybe lack of romantic stuff which I usually enjoy) and anything really catchy - the whole reading was equally good but not superb. Maybe boring sometimes.
But in general, I find this work a perfect start for a writer. I wish I could put my thought in writing l
Neil Purcell
Oct 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
A retired priest makes a journey, in his car, to re-connect with people he loved, and one he loathed, and to do penance for his failures, as he sees them. Via Negativa is a term with a particular meaning to the priest, in its applicability to a certain kind of spirituality, but it also has much to do with how so much of the meaning in his life is unexpressed, resting in his own thoughts and reflections and regrets. If this sounds dreary or depressing, I did not find this to be the case. I lost m ...more
Mark Schlatter
Oct 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: new_book_area, shreve
A short novel about a retired priest who lives in his car as he travels west to see old friends. Along the way, he picks up an injured coyote, hears many people talk about the supernatural, visits odd roadside attractions, meditates on the writings of early Christians, and slowly makes his way to the business that's been troubling him the entire time. I found the whole thing just slightly too rambling for my tastes, but I enjoyed seeing thoughts on Christian mysticism presented smack dab next to ...more
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