Leatherman (co-author Sharing the Faith With Your Child, 2006) writes the fictional life story of Benjamin Howard Keller, a Nebraska native who learns about life and death as he interacts with friends, neighbors and clients.
During a fairly normal childhood in a single-parent household, Benjamin spent time playing with the neighborhood children, going to church per his Catholic grandfather’s wishes, and helping his mother in her basement hair salon. He observes the world’s ugliness—he hears about a boy abducted by the nearby creek and witnesses a friend’s father commit adultery—but he grows up relatively unscathed and falls into his mother’s business of cutting hair. After opening his own salon, “Vanity Insanity,” his exposure to life’s glories and tragedies increases. He learns of past sexual abuse in a nearby parish, sees a co-worker struggle with depression and confronts the deaths of two dear clients. He also watches as friends find love, start families and develop their purposes. As for Benjamin, his own dreams and faith only burgeon after he faces his own great turmoil. For a story depicting such a seemingly ordinary life, Leatherman’s novel packs a punch. The carousel of themes—abandonment, abuse, adultery, death, depression—keeps the plot lively. Leatherman’s characters are likable and sympathetic; Benjamin can appreciate both one friend’s staunch Catholicism and another’s eventual atheism. Moreover, the author uses symbolism to good effect. In particular, the characters Faith, Hope and Lovey possess traits associated with their respective names (Faith is attractive yet elusive; Hope is innocent and ever present; and Lovey is appealing yet misunderstood), but ultimately, each character is a person first and a metaphor second.
A realistic, captivating portrayal of a man’s life in full.