As a 16-year-old Catholic seminarian, Chris Sieb had a deep crush on fellow student Jack Canston. Now, 25 years after parting ways, Jack has transfered to the Kansas City diocese where he once again encounters Chris - now Father Sieb - a devoted priest and closeted gay man. After seeing each other for the first time, the two rekindle their boyhood yearnings, beginning a secret relationship.
Their reverie is brief, however, abruptly shaken when another closeted priest in the diocese, a former classmate of the two, dies suddenly, an apparent suicide. Shortly thereafter a letter arrives at the archbishop's office claiming that more was going on than anyone ever expected. As his secret affair continues, Chris begins to realize there is something horribly wrong with Jack, some dark secret he's withholding, one somehow connected to their deceased classmate - and that the threat it represents is closer than he could ever guess. Now his one chance to survive lies in finally uncovering the truth.
The story involves two Catholic priests who met and fell in love as teens at seminary, who are reunited in their mid-30s. Can they have a relationship as adults? What would be the consequences if they do?
The context is one of a growing anti-gay priest witch hunt following the exposure of child abuse. It seems that gay priests had been quite well accepted until now, so long as they were celibate, but they were to become scapegoats.
As the two lovers reunite, there are many secrets that come to light, and there are mysteries that abound, which mostly stem from the shadows caused by hypocrisy, fear of exposure, and so on. Different priests respond in different and interesting ways to the challenge presented by being a gay member of a homophobic institution. These in some ways mirror the different approaches taken by the Church itself at different times and in different contexts. Some attempt to reform the church and change the rules. Others are deeply troubled by breaking vows and of perpetuating damaging lies. Some feel they must leave, others can maintain a dissonance between their words and actions, adopting a twisted legalistic approach to the letter rather than spirit of the rules.
The book is intelligent, well written, and emotionally engaging. The narration is great too. It came up as a recommendation based on my collection of MM books, but this book is of much higher quality than the usual MM fare.
It is harder to find quality literary fiction that involves gay characters on audible than it is to find pulp MM genre romance, unfortunately. But this book certainly deserves much greater prominence among intelligent readers interested in MM relationships.
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