»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
THE GOSPEL OF WINTER by Brendan Kiely – 5 star review
May 6th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

THE GOSPEL OF WINTER18048982

By Brendan Kiely

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster)

Issues: Sexual assault of a boy by a priest, drug use, divorce

Why this novel is important?

This kind of abuse happens every single day.

Finally, a novel that addresses the issue, offers a raw, authentic experience and encourages seeking help.

Victims of any kind of abuse will read this and know they’re alone.

A critical read to understand how abusers manipulate victims and the potential reactions of those subjected to abuse.

Buy a signed copy:  Boswell Books

or buy here: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Audible

I heard Brendan speak during The Gentleman’s Tour with Jason Reynolds and John Corey Whaley at Boswell Books, Milwaukee.

From my Twitter feed: 

Apr 30

Secrets, courage, friendship! That is what The Gospel of Winter is about, crossing the…

 

1374162_211445232360694_254475920_nAbout Brendan:

From his website: Brendan Kiely received an MFA in creative writing from The City College of New York.  His writing has appeared in FictionGuernicaThe AWP Writer’s Chronicle, and other publications. Originally from the Boston area, he now teaches at an independent high school and lives with his wife in Greenwich Village.

Website | Twitter | Facebook

 

From Goodreads:

A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

 

My Review: 

Raw, heartbreaking, authentic, important! 

The Gospel of Winter is a critical novel of coping with one of the worst things that could happen to a young man—sexual abuse. In this case, a priest takes advantage of a vulnerable young adult, Aiden. 

photoCover: 

Brilliantly designed. The jacket is translucent with the silhouette of a boy underneath. This symbolizes the hidden layers of Aiden, his shadowed self, and secrets. The letters in the word “Gospel” are broken symbolizing how the “gospel” Aiden learns from the priest is indeed broken, filled with lies and holes. It’s brilliant.

General comments:

I cried. I paced. I asked the question, “Why?” And I blessed Brendan Kiely for having the courage to write such an important book!

This is a novel that will let others who have gone through sexual abuse know that they’re not alone, that what they’ve experienced and how they’ve coped is normal, but that ultimately it’s unhealthy and painful to keep the trauma to oneself.

The story: (contains some minor spoilers, proceed with caution.)

Aiden’s father has left his mother and him for Europe and another woman. The novel starts out with Aiden co-hosting his mother’s annual Christmas party. He is surrounded by overbearing, “keep up with the Jones” type adults, and lots and lots of alcohol. Aiden crushes Adderall and snorts it. He drinks. All of this is his way of coping with the sexual abuse.

As the story goes on, Aiden develops some positive relationships with three other young adults. They’re able to talk about “real” stuff and take their “masks” off. Aiden sees many of the people around him as fake, always looking for the next deal and trying to out do their neighbors, their friends with bigger and better parties. Personally, I thought this was an accurate portrayal of what it’s like in some East Coast suburbs. I’ve met people like this, and though I find it shocking, it seemed very authentic. Many parents go off and leave their children to be raised by nannies. It’s not a Midwest “thing” but it’s a heck of a lot more common on the East Coast. What crushes me is the lack of respect for another person. Aiden’s “nanny” Elena is Hispanic, and he loves her. But there is definitely “class” and race separation. When will we live in a society that sees beyond skin color? Aiden is more of a second son to Elena. Unfortunately, Elena doesn’t do what it takes to protect Aiden. She too, fails him.

Readers might not like the choices Aiden makes or the adults around him. There are choices that many regret and are ashamed of. BUT THIS IS LIFE! Maybe you’ll get upset with Aiden, maybe you’ll cry for Aiden, maybe you’ll be frustrated with what happens and how the adults cope, BUT GET REAL! Because this is real! The drug use, the denial, the fear, the self-loathing, the shame, the guilt. 

Brendan Kiely gives readers an opportunity to walk in a male young adult’s shoes who has faced horrible abuse. This isn’t a “story” where we get to decide how Aiden shoulda reacted. Brendan Kiely researched this novel and spent six years writing it in order to give people a gift. A gift that will allow young adults going through abuse a window into what can happen if you don’t tell and don’t cope, especially when the abusing adult puts the fear of G-d in you, in this case, literally. 

The power of friendship is also explored in this novel. Aiden fails one of his best friends Mark. His failure is wrapped up in Aiden’s lies and his inability to cope with abuse. Aiden is sixteen! Sixteen-year-olds disappoint friends. They make bad choices. HECK, adults do it all the time! So many adults failed Aiden. Our hearts can break for him, for Mark, but ultimately we need to realize that neither had the love or support or the guidance to get out of this mess.

Except for a lovely friend named Josie. EVERYONE should have a good friend like Josie. 

I want to commend Brendan for writing one of the most important books on sexual abuse, and for tackling an even more taboo topic, sexual abuse involving a boy! 

The Gospel of Winter is a brilliantly written, tough, heartbreaking must read!

 


Leave a Reply

»  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 2012 Liza Wiemer