Joe Ratigan is divorced, alienated and living in California when he learns of the death of a man of whom he has a vague recollection from his young years in Brooklyn. He contacts the dead man''s family and is drawn reluctantly into matters about which he knew and cared little, but which he comes to understand go a long way to explaining the condition in which the world finds itself. Ratigan becomes deeply entangled in the dead man''s affairs when he meets the dead man''s sister. Her questions and her prodding induce him to travel from California to Rome, New York and Washington in search of answers. Among the memorable characters providing answers are priests and bishops whose views and practices help explain the collapse of Catholicism in the last third of the twentieth century. The story begins from the standpoint of a first person, and is then intertwined with a third-person account of related events. The two threads become one as the story unfolds. Hedonism and self-sacrifice contest the battleground that is Ratigan throughout the book as he tries to make sense of the matter into which he was unwillingly drawn -- but, as in life, humor erupts periodically to reward the reader with breaks from the deadly serious nature of the work.
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Published September 27, 2005
Literature & Fiction.