A theological drama that pits the sanctity of church law against the irrepressible nature of human desire.
In this complex debut novel, Bosworth explores the fraught issue of marriage. A newly minted cardinal, Harold Farley, is seen as a flawless adherent to church law, as he interprets it in an emotionally aloof, unyielding and cerebral way. The pope appoints him to head a new commission to investigate the state of marriage in the world—with particular emphasis on the United States—and to assess the church’s long-unrevised doctrine on matrimony. Farley’s mission is made tougher, however, by personal challenges. His secretary, Karen, has fallen in love with a man she longs to marry, but because he’s been divorced, the church forbids her to do so. Everyone, including Farley, concedes the man’s fundamental goodness, which makes the prohibition even more maddening. Farley also finds himself having romantic feelings for a close friend—and his predicament worsens when her dutiful husband suddenly dies in a plane crash. The author skillfully weighs the importance of church teachings against modern circumstances that threaten to render them draconian, if not obsolete. Farley’s personal travails force him to reconsider his staunch defense of laws that permit no exceptions. “I feel we’ll be locked into this commission for some time to come,” Farley says, “but I am hopeful that somewhere along the line, a compromise will be reached. We’ve simply got to find a solution.” The action can sometimes be very slow to unfold, and Bosworth has a tendency to overexplain his character’s thoughts rather than allowing them to reveal themselves through action and dialogue. It’s difficult, however, not to be impressed by the philosophical depth and balance of his book’s overall message.
A worthy read for anyone stirred by the plight of marriage in modern times.