THE DANCING ANGEL by Jack Casserly


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 From former papal correspondent Casserly, a Catholic saga stuffed with blue-collar Chicagoans, big-hearted clerics, virgins, a grouchy cardinal, some Jews, a Chinese millionaire, and--well, you get the idea. Very broad shoulders. This debut novel's picture of Windy City Catholicism--and, for that matter, all things Chicago--is earnest and convincing; Casserly knows his folk, from the moneyed denizens of the Gold Coast to the derelicts who hang out around the Loop. Unfortunately, he's also up on Catholic controversy, and his endless lectures on it entomb an otherwise engaging tale of two Irish Catholic families. The Dolans contain all of the modern Church's many contradictions. Patriarch Leo, a police detective, bemoans religious laxity when he learns that his daughter Evangeline, on her brother's advice but to her sister's horror, is considering an abortion. Leo also has problems with the Carmodys, especially Brendan, who just happens to be a cardinal, and his nephew Rusty, the father of Evie's child. The rival clans' other big feud is over St. Malachy's, a crumbling edifice dedicated to serving its ethnically porous congregation, overseen by the Rev. Cappy Conlon, a mildly pickled old priest who wants to drag Catholicism into the 21st century. Cardinal Carmody wants to sell St. Malachy's to ease the archdiocese's debt, but he runs into a pack of resistance: All of Chicago, from firemen to Black Muslims, rallies around Cappy and will brook none of the cardinal's imperiousness. Blended into this roiling ecumenical ragout are numerous minor but interrelated subplots, including Mob intrigue, some clerical buggery, horse racing, a barren yuppie, and a murder, all set amid a roar of backroom whispers. Before the tale turns saccharine, fusillades of tough talk are exchanged en route to some constructive resolutions as Dolan and Carmody alike struggle with large issues of faith. Some good stories, but way too much material to stack on one soapbox. (First printing of 30,000)

Pub Date: March 10th, 1995
ISBN: 1-55611-429-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Donald Fine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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