I just finished reading Brian Kennelly’s Two Statutes, sent to me for review by St. Benedict’s Press. The book is Kennelly’s first novel, and he succeeded in keeping me engaged enough to read the book almost in a single sitting. The problem I often have reviewing novels, however, if figuring out what to say that will be sufficient to entice someone to read the book, but that will not say so much about the content to take away the enjoyment of reading it. But, on the supposition that I need to say more than, “Hey, I liked this book. You should read it,” let me say a few things.
The book weaves two stories. One has to do with the friendship between a retiree named Buck and his violin-playing neighbor, a private man who doesn’t open up about his past easily. The other has to do with a young priest suffering a crisis of faith who is sent as part of an investigative team studying something strange with respect ao a statue of the Virgin Mary. That the two stories ultimately come together is a surprise to no one, but the lack of surprise is no detraction. There is a miracle here – and it has nothing to do with physical manifestations of a statue.
What Kennelly succeeds best at, in my view, is creating real and compelling characters. Buck is described late in the book as someone whose heart is “made only for kindness.” And that he is; a good man. But not a plastic one – he pushes too hard, butts in when he is not invited, doesn’t always say quite the right thing. In short, human like the rest of us. Peter, the young priest questioning his faith and his vocation carries a lot of pain, and you can feel it in everything he says. We don’t always agree with everything he says and does, but we feel for him as we follow his story.
I was grabbed by Walt – the violin player – from the start. Tentative in offering or accepting friendship, he nonetheless is a man full of love. Then there is Father Paul, the priest who Fr. Peter accompanies to investigate the statue. His desire to help his friend find his way back to a place of God, of peace, is palpable. Then there is Sister Marie. And Donald. And…
Kennelly manages to combine telling a good tale that keeps one reading with a portray of characters that invites our reflection. A good and enjoyable read.