To simply state the facts of this story is to do it an injustice: its subject is one which might so easily be sensational or unforgivably sentimental. It is instead the almost overwhelming compassion with which the story is told that is the predominant effect and the most important fact about the book. It concerns the love affair between a young Catholic woman and a priest and the style of the book is intense and poetic Thomas Bowles is a good man who has deceived himself about the priesthood; he's gifted and persuasive and he thinks of himself as the ""outward sign of things hoped for"", willing at first to submerge his identity for what he believes. He says at one point ""I am a priest because I believe nothing is of great moment"". Catherine Knott is devout, intelligent and lonely. She has an ""interesting"" job and devotes herself, desperately and unhappily to beating the daylights out of Communists, birth-control advocates, the Protestants and everyone and everything hostile to the one, true, Church. But she acts out of the hopeless notion that things depend on her. When eventually these two people meet their search for love and themselves is given meaning. Their story is given further credence in the characters who support them; the Monsignor who tells Bowles that there is nothing worse than self-deception in religion; Catherine's boss, Chris, who could find meaning in nothing; the alcoholic ex-Catholic who gives hope and forgiveness to Bowles out of his own despair; and the several curates in the parish who are solid, worldly men to whom Bowles is only an enigma. It's a strong story, one which on the surface may seem implausible because it is, one suspects, so rare. Nevertheless the particular characters are absolutely convincing and their problems become genuine and universal: loneliness, a longing for someone or something which is unnamable and which indeed may never exist, a belief which is part despair and a hope which carries with it grief and sorrow and desperate unhappiness.