In Treat’s (Our Stories of Experience, Strength & Hope, 2005) novel, a small-town pastor confronts a mystery surrounding the death of a member of his congregation.
Pastor Brian Matterson leads a small community of the faithful at All Saints Lutheran Church in Martin Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis. As the story commences, Brian, a recovering alcoholic with a dogged sense of duty, is trying to handle various everyday challenges with good humor when tragedy strikes: A member of his congregation, Candy Vinter, has hanged herself in her family home. She’d been dealing with breast cancer and the effects of chemotherapy, but even so, the chance that she might commit suicide had never crossed Brian’s mind. When he visits the family—her husband, Mickey, and their children—he senses something secret underneath the surface of their grief. After police investigate further, Brian finds himself confronting conflicting sets of priorities; meanwhile, he continues to juggle his ordinary responsibilities, including other family tragedies. Treat, a Lutheran pastor himself, portrays Brian’s world with three-dimensional texture so that even the daily details of life at All Saints become surprisingly gripping reading. For example, at the story’s outset, Brian faces the normal array of headaches that face any pastor, including a young couple seeking marriage counseling, and a leaking roof that the church can ill afford to repair since All Saints’ revenues have been declining along with the membership. Throughout, the author imbues his protagonist with a thoroughly believable humanity; at one point, for instance, he’s privately annoyed by his imperious secretary: “There were plenty of times Brian fantasized about ways to move her out of the job or get her to retire, but that was a political hot potato that could end up in a church schism if it went sideways. Truth be told, he would be lost without her.”
An engaging story about a clergyman’s crisis of conscience.