Review - "The Time of the Singing" by Louise Blaydon
Lovingly crafted take of being true to oneself
Israfel Vacek, at an early age, learned he was different. Reserved even as a kid, with a love of learning and books and dead languages. Introspective. Attracted to other boys. His twin brother Micheal, athletic and outgoing, straight, the perfect son. When Michael discovers his twin's "perversion", worried for his soul, he sets in motion a series of events that leads to Israfel's joining the priesthood. After all, it's not a sin to be gay, just to act on it, so Rafe will be safe there, learning the self control to fight his demons.
His posting at a church in a smaller town seems like just the place to minister to his flock. Peaceful and quiet. Until he spies Nate Mulligan.
Nate, teenage son of pious parents, and his younger brother Tom serve as altar boys for the Padre. He is cocky yet devout. A believer who also is a sinner in the eyes of the church. A beautiful young man, full of life and hope and spirit, he looks at Israfel first as a man, not a priest.
And God, how Israfel wants him.
When Nate notices the interest and returns it, Israfel's buried desires surface and threaten to explode. Will his devotion be enough, or will he sin with this beautiful young man?
What follows is a startlingly well developed, well thought out and beautifully crafted crisis of faith and conscience. The pacing of this gem of a book is slow and steady, but so perfect for the issues being examined here. Not only are Istafel's reasons for becoming a priest in the first place in question, but his attraction, perhaps inappropriate, for a member of his congregation. And a much younger man - 17 years old to his 29.
I found the dynamics of his relationship with his twin to be fascinating, his willingness to defer to Michael's supposed wisdom a response to his discomfort with his homosexuality, and to how the Catholic Church views it. Israfel's innate goodness is at war with a faith that demands that he not act on his feelings - I can understand his brother's need to protect but still have a little bitterness towards him for pushing his brother into a vocation that hides his feelings rather than deals with them in any constructive way. By protecting him, he stifles him and condemns him to a future bereft of love.
The last quarter of the book really soars. The slow build to Israfel's realizations about himself, his orientation, the guilt and pain and self denial, and then the dawning of his realization that God's desire and plan for him doesn't preclude love was so lovingly laid out. His spiritual growth mirrored his growth in his personal power and confidence, and was a wonderful sight.
The last chapter, as we see his future laid out, warmed my heart. How can one not love a man like Israfel? I certainly came to love him, and his Nate. I do wish he had had one last scene with his brother Michael, but it in no way detracted from the story.
Ms. Blaydon has told a deep and rich story of love, growth and destiny while being true to oneself spiritually and emotionally. Difficult and touchy subjects, but handled oh so very well.
Nicely done. Worth the read - do not be worried by the seemingly slow start. This book build and then flies like a dove.