A first novel, this is an attempt to show ""what it is like for an American to study for the priesthood in Rome in the second half of the twentieth century"". The book centers on the developing character of 25 year old Richard McKay, a mid-westerner and aspiring painter, and the conflicts which result from his artistic and religious ambitions and his own concepts of himself. Richard is idealistic, sensitive, and strong-minded; often, as a consequence, he finds that his major difficulty is not being understood- not because he is an American in an Italian order, which draws its recruits from various nationalities, but because of his attitude, his unwillingness to accept ambiguity, and his youthful self-centeredness. The book covers his final year and a half before ordination, when his difficulties with his superior, Padre Bracciano, are finally resolved and when he draws a great deal of support from his saintly spiritual adviser and from the friendships he has made with the other students. It becomes clear to him that he will have to be a priest first and an artist second. The book is intelligent if dramatically unengaging and its almost unavoidable political discussion does little to illuminate political realities.