Thursday, November 19, 2009

Book Review: Two Weeks Since My Last Confession, by Kate Genovese

Text © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen
Images from the Internet

Two Weeks Since My Last Confession
By Kate Genovese
Mountain Valley Publishing, 2009
368 pages, $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-934940-63-1

But first I digress… The central character of this book, Molly O’Brien, was born on October 19. Not only is that my mom’s birthday, but it’s also the day I started reading this! How much of a portent is that?

The focus of the novel is the large, Boston-based Irish-Catholic O’Brien family, who smacks of a Kennedy political mien. As the siblings grow up from the 1950s through the mid-‘80s, this story pinpoints mostly on three of them: Molly, Susan, and their brother Sean, highlighting their relationships, interaction with each other, the power of their family, and their participation with Catholic Church.

In this, Genovese’s third release, she uses her background in nursing to cover a multitude of sins including a large number of social ills, such as teen pregnancy, prostitution, PTSD, and abuse, such as drug, physical and sexual.

As we meet Molly, it is the late ‘70s and she is in rough shape. She wonders how her life came to this point, and so we begin a flashback to her birth. Growing up, she was one of eight kids, and the one with the strongest will. And yet, her mother’s ferverant religious zeal tears at her and wears her down. She acts out again and again, and a memory of an uncomfortable series of nights at home keeps her out of the house, leading her into more and more trouble. Genovese shows the reader step by step, making us desire to help and yet feel powerless.

This is also a story of its time. The effects of teen pregnancy or spousal abuse then would not have the same effect on a political family now. Also, with the present technology and celebrity family media fixation, there would be less chance for the political head of a family to be able to pull as many strings to keep family laundry more secretive.

While very little of the story takes place within the Church proper, its pull is felt on nearly every page, hence the title. The shunning led through the Church’s influence on its parishioners to unwed mothers through the pressures of confession and supposed forgiveness, is only conceded on the parish’s terms. This is its form of abuse most prevalent throughout these pages.

As a storyteller, Genovese knows how to keep the reader interested in what happens to the people this story revolves around, and in fact, I wouldn’t mind a second book about the rest of the clan that gets more of a peripheral glance. For example, two of the sisters see beyond what troubles Molly, and stand by her. What makes them tick, I wondered, since they were raised by this same intense family?

Despite the good storytelling, there are a few concerns that plagued me. First of all, the ending seems just a little too feel-good and pat. Also, by placing the time of the novel, Genovese avoids HIV/AIDS, though I doubt this was meant intentionally.

My biggest problem with the book though, and I realize this may be nit-picking, is that like many self-published works (it can be bought on-line though, from numerous sources), it needs more solid editing and proofreading, as it’s rife with grammatical errors (for example, the word “seen” is used rather than “scene”). There is also the occasional clumsy sentence structure that could easily be picked up by a dedicated line-editor. The story and author deserve that, especially in this instance, when the narrative is so solid.

I do like that while the abuse is aplenty, much of the physical stuff is left kind of vague, thereby relying more on story than on mere shock value. This seems to give the tale more validity, as life is vague, especially when one looks at memories many years later.

Despite the high drama, there is a good and firm story here that is enjoyable to follow, and I must admit it was enough of a page turner that I kept reading more often than most books I’ve read recently. Definitely a quick and enjoyable read, that makes me want to seek out her other works.

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