A shocking violation of faith and innocence forces an Italian-American Catholic priest to reflect on the course of his life—and the paths not taken—in Vincent Panettiere’s decades-spanning contemporary novel.
Readers are introduced to Monsignor Steven Trimboli in 2006. The 70-year-old pastor of Brooklyn’s Queen of Peace is disturbed by the Catholic Church’s growing list of clergymen who have been unmasked as pedophiles. Trimboli, who cares little about diocese politics, has decided he won’t look away from the Church’s legacy of unspeakable horrors. If Trimboli learns of child sexual abuse in his parish, he must report it and seek justice for the victims. His resolve is put to the test when he witnesses his grandson Eddie’s abuse at the hands of a priest at the church as the book gets underway.
The story then jumps back in time. Centered on Trimboli, the novel retraces his early days as a young, idealistic priest in 1950s New York City, and continues through the humid days and mortar-blasting nights when he was stationed in Vietnam, where he served as a U.S. Army chaplain. It also follows his relationship with one-time paramour turned unlikely confidante Rosalie LaMarca, the outspoken wife of neighborhood gangster Tony LaMarca. Over the years, Trimboli and Rosalie build a bond nourished by understanding and mutual respect. Their relationship survives grief, guilt, and miscommunication. Eventually, the story brings Trimboli back to the issue of his grandson’s abuse.
Panettiere casts Trimboli as a man whose deep convictions are as powerful as his devotion to God, and the priest’s traumatic time in Vietnam searingly captures war’s atrocities. Rosalie’s viewpoint enriches the narrative, showcasing her grit and self-reliance; for example, she forges a career as a successful clothing designer. However, sometimes Rosalie’s characterization veers into a borderline caricature that uses her sexuality as a dominant personality trait.
Nonetheless, this voice-driven novel will hook readers who seek stories that contextualize history through the struggles and victories of ordinary people.
Also available as an ebook.