THY BROTHER'S WIFE by Andrew M. Greeley
Kirkus Star


Email this review


Far more conventional, sentimental, and cheaply moralistic than Greeley's zesty best-seller The Cardinal Sins, this is nonetheless a readably commercial saga-mix (1950-1977) of tried-and-true formulas: two brothers loving the same woman; a priest's guilty agonizing over love and lust; a dab of Sane Eyre; and the ruthless doings of an amoral politico-on-the-rise (with a few subtle but nasty allusions to the Kennedys). The brothers are Sean and Paul, the two motherless sons of Chicago tycoon Michael Cronin--who plans out the boys' lives long in advance: Sean will be a Cardinal, vows Mike, and Paul will be President. Furthermore, foster-daughter Nora (an orphan raised from childhood by Mike and horrid Aunt lane) will be Paul's First Lady. And so it goes. . . sort of. Tediously noble Sean does go into the Church, rising despite himself--from a ghetto parish to Rome (as his Cardinal's controversial advisor on sexual doctrine) to Chicago's Vicar General-ship. Paul, after coming back from POW-dom in Korea, fakes his way through law school, becomes a dirty-tricks assistant to A. G. Robert Kennedy, then a congressman and senator. And Nora does marry Paul, bearing several daughters, pushing Bobby K. into the White House pool, later taking over the Cronin Foundation. But the usual complications arise. Nora, of course, loves priest Sean, not Paul--and vice versa; so there's much yearning and stifling through the years (with one night of consummation--perhaps resulting in pregnancy). Paul, meanwhile, prefers extramarital sex anyway (though he does love Nora); his affairs lead to one suicide and one faintly Chapaquiddick-y accidental death. . . while Paul also resorts to murder in order to cover up his secret Korea cowardice. And, throughout, there are dark hints of old Mike Cronin's secrets--about the boys' mother (who supposedly died in a car crash), about Sean's true paternity. A familiar cornball stew, in other words, with little of the brisk de-cassocking that made The Cardinal Sins both un-preachy and shocking. But Greeley recycles the stock melodramatics with no-nonsense pacing and relative warmth--and though many will find guilty/humble Sean a first-class drip, his involvement in some complicated Vatican/sex issues adds a spot of ecclesiastical heft to this cheer-ful kitchen-sink of a family/church/politics saga.

Pub Date: April 12th, 1982
Publisher: Warner