Via Negativa

Knopf. Aug. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780525658474. $23.95. F
[DEBUT] After decades of run-ins with conservative, pre–Vatican II priests, the free-spirited, pot-smoking, guitar-playing Father Dan is ousted from his parish in Muncie, IN. He packs his meager possessions into his car and works his way toward Seattle, carrying a tragic letter that prompts a stopover in Denver to see an old friend. Early in the journey, he veers off to quirky roadside attractions, picks up a derringer from a bar owner in Kansas, shares pot brownies with a hitchhiker, and rescues an injured coyote, which he tries unsuccessfully to release at animal shelters. Along the way, he mulls over his inactions during time spent with Father Bruno, a pedophile priest who hurt many boys at their school, but in the end finds that his chance to do the right thing is long gone. In rural eastern Washington, the coyote escapes to freedom, Father Dan drops the derringer in a roadside creek, and he is left with nothing but a desire for endless penance.
VERDICT Father Dan’s search for spiritual insight is told with self-effacing humor and deep reflection, offering readers much to contemplate about the human condition. A superb beginning for newcomer Hornsby.

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