In a time when most anything can be bought and sold, forgiveness and absolution are hot commodities.
Though Gabriel McKenna, a former Catholic priest, left the church during an emotional breakdown on the altar one Easter morning, he can’t seem to escape his calling. As a bookstore employee who is barely able to afford his modest lifestyle, he finds that people are drawn to him, seeking forgiveness and understanding of their past indiscretions. Madeline Murray, a high-powered executive, stumbles into Gabe’s bookshop and almost immediately reveals her deepest regrets about her failed marriage and stint as a stepmother. While this kind of thing might seem unusual, Gabe comments that it happens all the time: “People regularly dissolved in my presence—even those who didn’t realize that they were harboring shame.” From this chance encounter, an unlikely business partnership is formed when Madeline realizes that what Gabe can offer—forgiveness without religious affiliation, absolution for a price—might be exactly what a media-saturated and selfish society needs. Through a series of emails, text transcripts and feverish memos developing “Forgiveness 4 You” as a brand, interspersed with Gabe’s first-person narration, the novel swings between comedy and tragedy, all while meditating on the themes of guilt and forgiveness.
Bauer (The Forever Marriage, 2012, etc.) writes with humor and compassion about a business that is both bizarre and entirely all too real and the flawed and ultimately human characters behind it.