The riveting narrative of an honorable Irish priest who finds the church collapsing around him at a pivotal moment in its history
Propelled into the priesthood by a family tragedy, Odran Yates is full of hope and ambition. When he arrives at Clonliffe Seminary in the 1970s, it is a time in Ireland when priests are highly respected, and Odran believes that he is pledging his life to "the good."
Forty years later, Odran's devotion is caught in revelations that shatter the Irish people's faith in the Catholic Church. He sees his friends stand trial, colleagues jailed, the lives of young parishioners destroyed, and grows nervous of venturing out in public for fear of disapproving stares and insults. At one point, he is even arrested when he takes the hand of a young boy and leads him out of a department store looking for the boy's mother.
But when a family event opens wounds from his past, he is forced to confront the demons that have raged within the church, and to recognize his own complicity in their propagation, within both the institution and his own family.
A novel as intimate as it is universal, A History of Loneliness is about the stories we tell ourselves to make peace with our lives. It confirms Boyne as one of the most searching storytellers of his generation.
Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas) explores the tumultuous history of the priesthood in the Irish church. Father Odran Yates narrates from when his mother told him he ought to take vows through the present day. For many years, Odran has taught and cared for the library at Terenure College in Dublin, going about his days in near ignorance of church politics. He is without ambition and often exasperatingly na ve. He insists that he enjoys his life, despite one painfully botched and shameful romantic interest. When string of priests are convicted of sexually harassing young boys in their congregations, Odran pushes away the news for as long as he can, despite increasingly aggressive and pointed public response. Then he tries to return a boy that's been separated from his mother in a department store, and the Garda detain him, accusing Odran of attempting to kidnap the child. When an old roommate resurfaces, Odran must face his own denial and the pain it's caused. The book sags during conversations with formulaically villainous clergymen but is otherwise a quietly enlightening meditation on how the Irish Catholic church has let down its congregations.