A troubled New England pastor wrestles with the mysteries of God and man.
Gaspar follows up his elegant debut novel (Leaving Pico, 1999) with an equally elegiac contemplation of transgression and redemption set in the same culturally rich Portuguese stew of Provincetown, Mass. Warring impulses between the search for truth and the keeping of secrets occupy the heavy heart of Father Manuel Furtado, a protective guardian of his flock who nonetheless damps down his religious anxiety with gin and pills every night. His character is represented well by Gaspar’s lush, thoughtful prose: “It was not a matter of eternity for him, this salvation, but a matter of lifting the quotidian despairs and depressions, the wounds and griefs. And of pointing up the small happinesses. The generosities of spirit that bloomed ephemerally in the world. The sinful world, he might say, but what was sin but humanness? And anyway, he was not bereft of God. God was real and present in his life and everywhere else. Exactly how was a huge conundrum.” Furtado’s perilous intellectual position is threatened when a very old friend, Sarafino Pomba, appears suddenly in his church, Our Lady of Fatima. “You and me, Manny. What stuff we did,” says the fugitive convict, nearly incoherent from illness. Caught in a race between AIDS and lung cancer, the dying Sarafino claims to have divine visions as a result of a long-ago indiscretion by the two friends: the theft of a statue of the Virgin Mary they believe lies buried still in the woods nearby. In tracing Furtado’s tumultuous path from welcoming Pomba back into his life—an act of sublime faith for the wary believer—to recovering the long-missing icon, Gaspar crafts an eloquent, emotionally resonant story that marries the richness of his ethnic characters to the literary affections of writers like John Irving.
A modern-day folk tale that finds the divine spirit resting in the strangest places.