Author: Laura Lee
Publisher: Itineris Press
Genre: contemporary literary fiction
Every now and then I come across a novel that leaves me feeling that my life has been enriched by reading it. This beautifully written work is one of those rare beauties. Author Laura Lee has taken the subject of the nature of love, placed it in the context of homosexuality and Christian ministry and come up with something that is sensitive, beautiful, thought-provoking and deeply moving.
Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his religious duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so moved by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.
Even after he regains his focus and realizes he simply met a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction for the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through this vision, and Paul must determine what God is calling him to do.
The most brilliant thing about this book is that the love between Ian and Paul has a purity and beauty to it, and that Paul, as a deeply spiritual man, sees this love as a gift from a magnanimous God. Ian truly is his angel, just as Paul is an angel for Ian. It is clearly a beneficial relationship for both men and nothing like the sordid kind of relationship many people envisage when they think of love between men. I was very impressed with the feeling of deep love the author evoked in the innocent & sometimes playful scenes between the two men, and also with the superb pacing that kept me reading while yet never wanting it to end.
Every character in this book is skilfully drawn, but the main characters are particularly complex and richly written. Ian is delightfully innocent despite his tardy life to date. He accepts his homosexuality and alcoholism without shame, and his open-minded questioning forces Paul to reconsider his beliefs and assumptions in a very deep way. Paul is not a homosexual, he simply happens to fall in love with a man in a society that labels things in black and white. We think that you’re either with us, or you’re with them, but reality isn’t as simplistic as that.
What is most important, the quality of the love, or the sex of the lover? Is love made impure by homosexual relations? Does the nature of one’s sexuality decrease the validity of love? How is it to live a love that cannot be celebrated in society in the same way as that of a man and a woman? Do labels define us? These are the kind of questions that this book arouses, as well as the obvious theological questions about the stand of the church towards homosexuals.
If you shy away from the subject matter because you’re a little homophobic, or even if you find the idea of gay love distasteful, then you should read this.
Angel is the best kind of Indie fiction, brave, expertly written and perfectly finished. 5 stars.