The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

The Bishop's Man

byLinden MacIntyre

Kobo ebook | July 28, 2009

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Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed to a rowdy adolescent enthusiasm. This young man, I realized, was exceptional only because of time and place. Maybe any one of them in those circumstances would have been the same. Quiet. But he caught my attention nevertheless and linked the moment to tender places in the memory. Doomed boys and men: in retrospect they all have that stillness.
--from The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre
 
The year is 1993 and Father Duncan MacAskill stands at a small Cape Breton fishing harbour a few miles from where he grew up. Enjoying the timeless sight of a father and son piloting a boat, Duncan takes a moment’s rest from his worries. But he does not yet know that his already strained faith is about to be tested by his interactions with a troubled boy, 18-year-old Danny MacKay.
 
Known to fellow priests as the “Exorcist” because of his special role as clean-up man for the Bishop of Antigonish, Duncan has a talent for coolly reassigning deviant priests while ensuring minimal fuss from victims and their families. It has been a lonely vocation, but Duncan is generally satisfied that his work is a necessary defense of the church. All this changes when lawyers and a policeman snoop too close for the bishop’s comfort. Duncan is assigned a parish in the remote Cape Breton community of Creignish and told to wait it out.
 
This is not the first time Duncan has been sent away for knowing too much: decades ago, the displeased bishop sent a more idealistic Duncan to Honduras for voicing suspicions about a revered priest. It was there that Duncan first tasted forbidden love, with the beautiful Jacinta. It was also there that he met the courageous Father Alfonso, who taught him more about spiritual devotion than he had ever known back home. But when an act of violence in Honduras shook Duncan to his core, he returned home a changed man, willing to quietly execute the bishop’s commands.
 
Now, decades later in Cape Breton, Duncan claims to his concerned sister Effie that isolation is his preference. But when several women seek to befriend him, along with some long-estranged friends, Duncan is alternately tempted and unnerved by their attentions. Drink becomes his only solace.
 
Attempting to distract himself with parish work, Duncan takes an interest in troubled young Danny, whose good-hearted father sells Duncan a boat he names The Jacinta. To Duncan’s alarm, he discovers that the boy once spent time with an errant priest who had been dispatched by Duncan himself to Port Hood. Duncan begins to ask questions, dreading the answers. When tragedy strikes, he knows that he must act. But will his actions be those of a good priest, or an all too flawed man?
 
Winner of the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Linden MacIntyre’s searing The Bishop’s Man is an unforgettable and complex character study of a deeply conflicted man at the precipice of his life. Can we ever be certain of an individual’s guilt or innocence? Is violence ever justified? Can any act of contrition redeem our own complicity?

Title:The Bishop's ManFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:July 28, 2009Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307372855

ISBN - 13:9780307372857

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Narration 1 of 5 stars 2 of 5 stars [ 3 of 5 stars ] 4 of 5 stars 5 of 5 stars This is another book I didn't realize was part of a series but again it didn't matter. It was pretty isolated, as far as I felt it anyway, and though the overall problem wasn't solved I'm not sure it will be in the rest of the series - this book was pretty self contained. I didn't like how broken up the narration was, especially considering there was so much to keep up with (especially even in one timeline thread it would go back and forth in its own time), but I did enjoy how quick paced the plot was and I was able to get through the book quickly. Reading quickly was another problem, though. Because we were introduced to so many characters in such short periods of time I often found myself confused and couldn't recall who this character was which, especially at the end with William, caused a lot to be misunderstood. It was interesting to see the kind of man the main character was (I can't even remember his own name). It was a perfect example of show don't tell and you could see just how far his alcoholism was developing and you knew the kind of responses he'd give when asked. His thought processes were nice and the different between what was said and what he narrated instead was also an interesting technique. It would've been nice if he actually did something about the huge problem the story highlights, though. His own actions towards that red herring were nice, but I feel like there was way too much sitting on the matter that clearly bothered him instead of making use of the resources he had (like the cop and journalist) to do something about it. I love how we got a view into both religious and legal institutions without feeling what the author's own thoughts about them are. Everything was seen through the main character's eyes and we were able to make our own assumptions based on what we saw. The previous book I read to this was terrible at it and bashed me over the head with it but this book didn't - it had a good grip on keeping everything contained all while letting you take the lessons learned out in your own world. I won't be checking out the rest of the series, mostly because I don't think the big problem will be resolved, but this one was alright. Too all over the place for my liking, since I really don't know what much of the point was, but it was a nice read through and the writing was decent. Being able to consume fiction from different genres and viewpoints is always useful and this book didn't disappoint me at least in regards to being a good example for showing me a different style and feel.
Date published: 2017-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Bishop's Man Beautifully written in its portrayal of life in rural Atlantic Canada. The strongly emotional topic of child abuse by Roman Catholic clerics is approached in a human and humane way through a most interesting point of view. This is an important contribution to the conversation on this dark piece of our social history. Despite its subject matter, this book is a most fascinating, uplifting and indeed entertaining work.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Bishop's Man by Linden MacInyre What a great read. Thought provoking, and exceptional in intelligence with words and human insight. Substantial on so many levels!
Date published: 2014-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Bishops Man As usual with a MacIntyre book couldnt put it down
Date published: 2014-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Bishops Man Heartfelt & very human
Date published: 2014-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Getting closure A well written book about a very difficult subject.  The writer captures some of the ambivalence of the time and the essence of living on the East Coast in a remote town. Reality is deceptive in this novel.  As one reads deeper, you come up with so many different questions about life.  The characters are conflicted and continue to struggle with atonement, redemption and their past.  No nice tidy endings here.  A great book to read.
Date published: 2013-11-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting and Captivating Book 2 in the Cape Breton trilogy Synopsis is mainly taken from WiKipedia and expended with my own thoughts The story follows the life of a Catholic priest named Duncan MacAskill. In the 1970s MacAskill convinced a rural Nova Scotia priest who impregnated his own housekeeper to quickly move to Toronto and avoided what could have been a significant local controversy. MacAskill was subsequently called upon numerous times by the Catholic Church to quietly resolve numerous potential controversies. By the 1990s, MacAskill was the dean of a Nova Scotia Catholic university. He is soon sent to oversee a remote Cape Breton parish were he would have a low profile, deal with a new impending public controversy, and come to terms with the consequences of his past cover-ups. With the stream of stories about church sex abuse scandals around the world although a fiction it is more a story about contrition rather than redemption and has definitely the ring of truth to it. Mr. McIntyre award winning investigative reporter’s eyes brought forward the most disturbing crime in our society, the sexual abuse of children. The storyline takes also other themes such as the corruption and perversion of power, in this instance, the bishop and of the transgression in the Catholic Church and the hidden demons that can haunt the priests. Reading the narration feels like the priest (MacAskill) is actually talking to us. The whole story has a very sentimental tone to it and is peppered with Gaelic dialogue. It may drag a bit and the subject may not please everyone for its sensitive topic but once stated it is definitely a hard book to put down.
Date published: 2013-05-11
Rated 3 out of 5 by from MacIntyre's The Bishop's Man Well written. MacIntyre gets the east coast dialect and culture as well as the culture of the clergy. I found the ending unsatisfying, yet that seemed appropriate as the response within the church and those communities affected by sexual abuse and scandals is largely unsatisfying.
Date published: 2012-12-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great voice, fair tale The best thing about the Bishop's Man is MacIntyre's prose. He uses a clipped style and an engaging first person POV, but doesn't feel he has to berate his audience with details. We get what's happening through what's given and what's implied. The details of alcoholism are particularly well-handled. The main issue I have with the novel is that it's about a priest, and a priest with a scarred past and a crisis of faith and all that, but still a man of the cloth. Very little PRIESTLY behaviour is detailed. He references his homilies, but we're never shown one. He spends little time thinking about his job because he's preoccupied with battling his desires. Natural enough, and I enjoyed that aspect of it, but I sometimes found Duncan's choice of vocation unbelievable. He even gets caught out once by another priest who quotes a Psalm and Duncan has no idea what he's talking about. If the man's a priest, I guess I expected a bit more priestly behaviour, no matter his disenchantment. But overall, a great read, told from the inside of a dark time for the Catholic church, when exposures and coverups were shaking its foundation in this country.
Date published: 2012-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Cryptic and confusing 2.5 stars This was about a priest (Duncan?) in Nova Scotia in the mid-90s, during the time of the sexual abuse and cover-ups. I wasn't impressed. I thought it was extremely cryptic, and therefore confusing. I liked the first couple of sentences, and thought the writing seemed like I might like it. But, it was slow and I had trouble focusing on it. About a third of the way through, I actually thought something was going to happen (!), and maybe it would pick up, but it didn't take long before it went back to cryptic and confusing. Overall it was boring, nothing really happened. Things might have been insinuated, but nothing happened. I think that, given the topic of the book, it actually could have been interesting, but it wasn't. Despite all my negative comments, at first I thought the book was o.k., but I also expected it to pick up and/or for something to happen, so my rating dropped as I continued through it and nothing did happen. I'm having a hard time rating it, especially in comparison to others I've read this year that I probably should have marked lower. In comparison to those, I will give this 2.5 stars, slightly higher than my review might indicate.
Date published: 2012-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Page-Turning Portrayal I now know why this book won the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award as well as receiving numerous other literary accolades. What an excellent book! I decided to read it to prepare myself for reading Linden MacIntyre's new novel, "Why Men Lie" (publication date: March 2012) The story follows the life of a Catholic priest named Duncan MacAskill. Duncan is known among his fellow clergymen as the "Exorcist" because he has spent most of his time as a priest being the Bishop's clean-up man and take care of potential controversies before they become public. After a period of time when he was sent to minister in Central America, he is sent by the Bishop to oversee a small Cape Breton Island parish where he would keep a low profile and deal with an new impending public controversy, all the while, dealing with his own personal demons. I found this book to be very well-written, even though at times the plot jumps back and forth between the present and the past. The dialogue between characters was very true to life, in my opinion. You really get a sense of Duncan's personal inner conflict and wonder how he is going to make it through. This book was published at around the same time as a $15 million settlement was reached in the sexual abuse scandal in the Antigonish diocese in Nova Scotia. As a non- Catholic, I did not know some of the references to the Catholic religion, but that did not seem to hamper my understanding of what was happening in the book. "The Bishop's Man" has been described in Quill & Quire as "a well-crafted, brave and painful examination of one of the most monstrous issues of our time." Since Linden MacIntyre is from Cape Breton Island, the reader gets a true sense of what life on the island is really like. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2012-04-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thought provoking I am not often inspired to pick up a book simply because it has won national awards but this book and its subject matter was intriguing. I was not disappointed. The very delicate subject of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and its subsequent cover up for years might turn you away from this troubling story. Don't let it - it is an important story to be read and understood. It is told from the perspective of a priest who is "chosen" by his bishop to be the bridge between victim and perpetrator and his ultimate goal of preserving the institution of the Holy Mother Church. Damaged himself, the story skirts his own troubled past as well as the slow unraveling of the web of secrecy that has been created to protect the Church and his own conflict with the role that he has played throughout. Without delving into the gory details of abuse, the author has given us incredible insight into these tormented souls. Both the soul of the abused as well as the soul of the priests sent to "counsel" the victims. A difficult subject at best, the book is incredibly well written providing the reader with a view angled to both sides but never losing its ultimate message that hiding what had been done damaged the Church, its pastors as well as its parishoners.
Date published: 2011-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Elegant and full of nuance To read The Bishop’s Man, by Linden MacIntyre, is to come to an understanding about nuance, patience and the sometimes ambiguity of knowledge. The novel is set in the late 1990s of Cape Breton, at a time when the Catholic Church is under siege both from within and without, and when Canada’s fisheries are collapsing. Come into this Father Duncan MacAskill, known among his colleagues as the ‘Exorcist’, the damage-control man for the Bishop of Antigonish. Duncan himself is in need of damage control, burned out, over-stressed, searching for his own relevance in a Church with diminishing relevance. There is very much the feeling of shadows in this novel, of whispers in the wind, of the reluctance to acknowledge hurt, tragedy, and responsibility. I know of many editors, even writers, who would have condemned the first half of this novel as too introspective, too slow, that the character of Duncan MacAskill is too remote. They would be wrong. As was I. What Linden MacIntyre creates with this cool, distant approach is a fragile foundation he then, in the last few chapters, ruthlessly, and yet with grace, rips out from under the reader’s metaphorical feet and leaves you numb, in my case weeping. In a story so reserved in its emotional impact, it creates a thunderous impact in the end so that the only word left to describe this novel is memorable.
Date published: 2011-01-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Priests limp through it. In the tradition of books like The Thornbirds, Macintyre presents Catholic priests as humans with failings. The protagonist, the bishop's man, is without personality or energy and Macintyre does a good job of developing such an uninteresting character. Although the book touches on the current sex scandals within the Catholic church, Macintyre neither examines them deeply nor offers any insights, with the possible exception of having the Bishop frame the publicity about them as the work of anti-Catholics. . In the end, the book is as sterile as the priests with whom it deals.
Date published: 2010-09-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it I thought this was a beautifully written and thoughtful book about a good man who has made decisions in his life which he thought were for the greater good, but has to face the fact that much damage was done.
Date published: 2010-09-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Couldn't put it down This novel is beautifully written and holds your attention. It's relevant with all the bad publicity the Catholic Church has received lately and it gives an interesting perspective.
Date published: 2010-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worthy of the Giller I could not put this one down. It was a great read and I did not find it dull at all. The subject matter is dark and this is not a 'feel good novel' but at the same time, I thought the author drew a good balance between the worst actions of humanity (and the church) and the general decency of people; our capacity to love, forgive, and overcome life's most difficult obstacles. The main character's struggle between being a man/person and his obligations/vows to the church made him surprisingly relatable. The writing was excellent and I look forward to more novels by MacIntrye. The dialogue and discriptions of the Cape Breton setting were so real I felt like I was transported back to the east coast.
Date published: 2010-08-06