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The Father's Tale: A Novel Hardcover – September 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


The best of Michael O'Brien's novels. He creates characters like Dickens, explores human relationships like Austen, and has the epic scope of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I believe this novel will merit inclusion in any list of the world's greatest novels. --Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ

This is a magnum opus in quality as well as quantity. All of O'Brien's large and human soul is in this book as in none of his shorter ones: father, Catholic, Russophile, Canadian, personalist, artist, storyteller, romantic. There is not one boring or superfluous page. When you finish The Father's Tale you will say of it what Tolkien said of The Lord of the Rings: it has one fault: it is too short. A thousand pages of Michael O'Brien is like a thousand sunrises: who's complaining? --Peter Kreeft, Ph.D., Boston College, Author, You Can Understand the Bible

To enter the domain into which this book takes its readers is to find oneself in the precincts of Holiness, really. Everything is here: suspense, poignancy, darkness, goodness, radiance, courage and joy. George Macdonald, Charles Williams, Chesterton, Lewis, and, yes, Dostoyevski, have ventured across the borders of this terrain. The scrim that lies between ordinariness and That Which lies beyond ordinariness is pierced. Michael O'Brien's achievement here is, I think, titanic. --Thomas Howard, Author, Dove Descending: T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1076 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; y First edition edition (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 089870815X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898708158
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.9 x 2.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #309,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Webster, award-winning author VINE VOICE on October 17, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My first impression of The Father's Tale (before I read a word of it) is that it is a BIG novel--over 1,000 pages. After reading it, I'm still convinced that it is a BIG novel--but in a different way: it is truly one of the GREAT novels of our time. In spite of its size, I devoured the story in a little over a weekend. It was so captivating that I sometimes got up in the middle of the night to read more because I could not get the story out of my head.

The Father's Tale is an appropriate title in several ways. On the surface level, it's the story of Alexander Graham, a recluse bookseller in a small town. To him, his life appears meaningless and empty since his wife has passed away and his two sons have embarked on their own journeys--the older one chasing after worldly succes and the younger engaging in questionable esoteric pursuits abroad. Alex's life is turned upside down when his younger son, Andrew, disappears without a trace. Alex mortgages his meager resources to the hilt--literally surrendering everything he has and is--in a trans-world quest to find his lost son.

On another level, the story is an allegory for the parable of the Prodigal Son. And on an even deeper level, it is a rich tale of self-discovery that entails symbolism, mysticism, and the everlasting love of The Father for his sons and daughters as He pursues them like the Hound of Heaven.

As "big" as the novel was, it ended too soon for me. I could have read another 1000 pages of O'Brien and not minded at all.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By David Gersten on October 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is my new favorite fiction. The Father's Tale is absorbing on many levels. As a straight up tale of adventure it succeeds by force of elaborate plot. Though it is riddled with foreshadowing, it remains mostly unpredictable till the final pages. As a period and culture novel, the 500 pages dedicated to the experience of Russia at the turn of the century are a compelling postscript to works of Russian writers before the fall of the USSR. Where it succeeds best, as with all of O'Brien's novels, is as a tale of an individual making his way in a world that is not just material and where his and other characters' actions have consequences on a spiritual level. The imagery in this ninth O'Brien work is perfectly honed. I may be partial to his use of birds and his portrayal of suffering but all of it works to draw the reader into the story. Remarkably, you are left at the end feeling as if you too have experienced Alexander Graham's spiritual journey.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Teófilo de Jesús on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This year of Our Lord 2011 has been a very challenging to our family. Among the many challenges we've faced was one very trying one, one which brought my dignity and my self-identity as a father into question.

To make the story short, the series of events left me thinking that I have failed as a father to one of my sons, that I was unsuccessful in handing down the faith, the way to live a Christian life, to hold on to a holy marriage, to respect the sacraments and the life of grace. Surely it was my fault that he had to look elsewhere for what I failed to give him.

Michael O'Brien's book, A Father's Tale, was brought to me as a healing balm, as just the medicine that the doctor ordered.

The Father's Tale: A Novel is the story of a man about my age, father of two sons like I am, and one of them went astray. The father, Alexander Graham by name, a reclusive widower and bookstore keeper, resigned to die. He left everything behind, his bucolic Canadian town, his shop, his friends, and his eldest, starting a desperate race against time and distance to bring his son, his stray lamb, back into the fold.

Spanning Great Britain, Finland, the entire length of Russia and beyond, Mr. O'Brien gives us a tour de force that includes music, poetry, revolution; as well as deepest darkness and incredible light. We see Alex Graham's heart expand, then break, and then expand into greater love.

Two takeaways from this book, the first one a lesson taught also in several other books by Mr. O'Brien which I have read, and that is that the battle against evil is not going to be won by any human means at our disposal. No one knows can begin to image how the battle will be won, but it will be won. In fact, it has been won already.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Reinhard VINE VOICE on December 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Father's Tale, by Michael O'Brien, is an impressive book to look at. It clocks in over 1000 pages and is not for the faint of heart.

It's a LOT of reading.

But wow! WHAT reading!

Here's literature in the modern day, a little slice of what Dickens might look like if he were writing now. These characters are richly written and real people.

I've never been to Russia, and before I read this, I would have thought it unlikely that I would ever go. O'Brien makes his story a journey, and while you may not feel that you need to know how everything looks, I didn't find it overwhelming or to be too much.

In other words, I loved the book.

On the surface, it's a good story. Dad finds out that son disappears, takes off for the first time ever from his small town and travels around the world. During his journey, he runs into all sorts of interesting folks and crazy adventures.

If you go a little deeper-which, really, you should, after investing all that time in reading it-there's more to be considered.

First, what is fatherhood? And when we consider ideal fatherhood-not what we have experienced in life, but what God intends-how do we get a clearer picture of God himself, God as our father?

While O'Brien has you wondering just what in the world is going to happen (and there was a point, near the end, when I was convinced I did have it figured out...and I didn't. Not at all.), he also forces you to do a bit of self-examination.

What does it look like to give it all to God? What does trust in God really entail?

Can I do that?

Or, if you're me: Are you serious?

If his characters were any less authentic, the story wouldn't work.
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