We're in the midst of a renaissance of new writing in the Catholic tradition. Here are some favorites to put on your list.
This year I’ve re-dedicated myself to waking up early to read before heading to my office. As a result, I’ve been reading more than ever. In particular, I’ve been digging into minor classics in the Catholic tradition, books like Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede and Leon Bloy’s Exegesis of Commonplaces, both of which I highly recommend.
As I look to restock my reading list, I’ve been browsing the websites of various Catholic publishers, and it’s become more and more clear that we’re currently in the midst of a renaissance of new writing in the Catholic tradition. There are many good books that I can’t wait to read them. Here are five in particular that were published this past year alone that are now on my to-read list.
As Earth Without Water by Katy Carl – Wiseblood Books
Full disclosure, Katy is a friend and we’re both on the editorial board at Dappled Things Magazine. But knowing her and how thoughtful she is only makes me more interested in reading her novel.
Founder of Dappled Things Bernardo Aparicio says of it: “By the end of the book, I was convinced I had just read not only a masterfully executed novel, but actually one of the best novels I have ever read … My wife can attest that when I started reading it, I kept interrupting her with expressions of disbelief at how good it was.”
The novels follows a monk named Thomas Augustine as he wrestles with his vocation in the monastery, some past hurts that might be holding him back, and what it might mean to know real freedom. The story reveals the depth of human love and longing. Check out the full synopsis at the website.
In Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz – Chrism Press
You’ve got to love any novel with the tagline, “CERTAIN THINGS RUIN A GIRL’S REPUTATION, AND MADNESS IS ONE.”
Historical fiction is always enjoyable, and this promises to be the first of many in the Molly Chase series. In this novel set in Boston, 1793, the beautiful Molly Chase attracts a lot of men. But ever since her father committed suicide, nightmares plague her day and night. Molly needs a home, a nurse, and time to grieve. But when she moves in with her friends the Robbs, including Josiah Robb, an eligible bachelor, spiteful society gossips assume the worst. Perhaps they’d make a good match, but slander, confusion, absence, and a wealthy, conniving bully stand between them. And with French spies on the loose, they not only have to rescue their reputations—they have to protect their lives.
Providence Blue: A Fantasy Quest by David Pinault – Ignatius
Here’s the description from the website: “At his typewriter in little Cross Plains, Texas, Robert E. Howard created big characters—Bran Mak Morn, Solomon Kane, Conan the Barbarian—who shaped the art of fantasy fiction for generations. But Howard would never know it. On June 11, 1936, at the age of thirty, he shot himself outside his country home. Why would he do it, and where could death have taken him?”
Providence Blue imagines the strange underworld journey of Howard after his suicide, through Texas flatlands, ancient Egyptian ruins, and New England city gutters. Meanwhile, as his girlfriend Novalyne Price investigates what caused the tragedy, she is led to Providence, Rhode Island, home of the horror writer H. P. Lovecraft, where she makes a terrifying, life-changing discovery.
In Providence, decades later, aging grad student Joseph Bonaventure struggles to finish his dissertation on Lovecraft. When he and a young librarian, Fay O’Connell, chance upon some of the author’s lost papers, this breakthrough locks both of them in a web of black magic, occult conspiracy, and dark cosmic forces—and ties them intimately to the fate of Robert E. Howard. Alongside a cast of Providence characters, including a local priest and a stray Chihuahua, Joseph and Fay join a supernatural quest for good against evil, heaven against hell, the Lamb of God against the horrors of oblivion.”
The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade – W.W. Norton
This one comes highly recommended from friends, a novel about a family’s extraordinary year of love and sacrifice.
The summary on Amazon says:
“Vivid, tender, funny, and beautifully rendered, The Five Wounds spans the baby’s first year as five generations of the Padilla family converge: Amadeo’s mother, Yolanda, reeling from a recent discovery; Angel’s mother, Marissa, whom Angel isn’t speaking to; and disapproving Tíve, Yolanda’s uncle and keeper of the family’s history. Each brings expectations that Amadeo, who often solves his problems with a beer in his hand, doesn’t think he can live up to. The Five Wounds is a miraculous debut novel from a writer whose stories have been hailed as ‘legitimate masterpieces.’ (New York Times)”
Dante’s Indiana by Randy Boyagoda – Biblioasis
Indiana is nice, but really, this author had me at Dante.
This is the story of Prin, a man who has lost his way. Amazon sums it up this way:
“Desperate for money and purpose, he moves to small-town Indiana to work for an evangelical millionaire who’s building a theme park inspired by Dante’s Inferno. He quickly becomes involved in the difficult lives of his co-workers and in the wider struggles of their opioid-ravaged community while trying to reconcile with his distant wife and distant God. Both projects spin out of control, and when a Black teenager is killed, creationists, politicians and protesters alike descend. In the midst of this American chaos, Prin risks everything to help the lost and angry souls around him while searching for his own way home. Affecting and strange, intimate and big-hearted, Dante’s Indiana is a darkly divine comedy for our time.”