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THE WAY THE ANGEL SPREADS HER WINGS by Barry Callaghan

THE WAY THE ANGEL SPREADS HER WINGS

By Barry Callaghan

Pub Date: May 15th, 1991
ISBN: 0-86538-073-2
Publisher: Ontario Review

 A promising though uneven first novel from Canadian journalist, poet, and story-writer Callaghan. The narrative here modulates between the childhood memories of Adam Waters growing up in Toronto and his adult experiences travelling the globe in search of a childhood sweetheart. Brought up in a working-class neighborhood in Toronto, Adam is exposed to a street mix of urban North America: parish priests, jazz, violence. Distanced from his mother and musician father, Adam becomes infatuated with a local girl, Gabrielle, and is perplexed by her father, organist for a hockey stadium. From his local parish, Adam gets a full blast of rich, pre-Vatican II Catholicism: incense, liturgy, music--as well as the sanity of the philosophical Father Zale. Callaghan covers the standard riffs of a coming-of-age story--sexual initiation, romance, disappointment--but plays out each with originality, flavor, and economy. Interwoven with these childhood episodes is Adam's search for Gabrielle, as, years later, he tracks her from Puerto Rico to Africa. But this second plot-line quickly becomes mired in improbabilities and melodrama: stereotypical Third World villains; clichÇd jet-setters; Gabrielle resurfacing in smock and cropped hair in an African leper colony. Still, despite an unnecessarily overextended double plot, the core coming-of-age tale and deft prose make this one worthwhile.