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Father Elijah: An Apocalypse Paperback – November 1, 1997
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Learn more
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"I've read thousands of books, and this is one of the great ones. I hope tens of thousands read it, and are shaken as I have been. It's a novel that grips one like a thriller -- indeed it is a thriller, but also something far deeper. There are love and friendship, interwoven with drama, but what it is essentially is faith, faith in the Christ." ---Sheldon Vanauken, Author, A Severe Mercy
"Father Elijah is that rare thing, a great novel which is also a testimony to orthodox Catholicism. But it is more even than this. Basing himself squarely on Scripture and human experience, O'Brien has produced a prophetic work and a manual of spiritual warfare. This compelling masterpiece will stretch your imagination in the right direction. Read it and pray." ---Stratford Caldecott, Centre for Faith and Culture, Oxford
"I guarantee you that once you take up this book you will not put it down until the end of the world. Here is a meaty page-turner with the pace of a thriller, beautifully written, and that something more that turns entertainment into literature." ---Ralph McInerny, Author, Fr. Dowling Mysteries
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The plot is excellent, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. On the surface, it would seem that the subject matter is dated. The book was written twenty years ago when people were speculating on what would happen at the turn of the millennium. However, Michael D. O'Brien has written a timeless story where the characters struggle with faith in the real world. Father Elijah has suffered the loss of his family in childhood and lost faith. He has experienced conversion yet he still struggles with keeping the Faith when confronted with evil. His friend, Anna has lost the Faith, because it seems incompatible with the modern world. Other characters within the Church struggle with good and evil.
Ultimately, what amazed me the most was the recurring themes of free will, salvation, and trust in God rather than our own strength, especially in the face of evil. Seemingly minor characters, such as the Holy Father, Father Prior, and Don Matteo, are a great source of wisdom for Father Elijah, because they remind him that everyone, even the President of the EuroParliament, is a child of God, who was free will to love and follow God or to reject Him. We must also remember this when dealing with souls who choose evil over good causing others pain and loss. We must forgive. That is a big challenge. Realizing that we are not expected to do this without God is therapeutic. The book is so well researched and well written that I can only scratch the surface in this review. That's what is so amazing. Read the book. Read it!
While I suppose the heavy Catholic /Christian themes may put some off reading this, it serves up rich rewards to those who stay the course. The character development is dense and structured, the plot lines carry enough surprise to make for an interesting story, and the prose itself is beautiful and a joy to read.
For the Christian there are the added experiences of a well-known story arch being mirrored in the novel, with an epic struggle between Good and Evil, with a charismatic but very human priest as protagonist, and generally some lovely scenes in Rome and Italy.
If the Catholic setting does not disqualify you, this is a rare and powerful treat.
I especially want to praise a conversion scene that takes place towards the middle of the book. I won't go into great detail since I think it should be experienced unspoiled, but this scene served to blend personal circumstance, skepticism, and mercy into a beautiful story about redemption. I had to read the scene several times to fully process it.
O'Brien's works truly stand out when it comes to characters. It's difficult to describe, but he manages to blend both symbolism and realism into his characters, which is where I think several christian authors take a misstep. The priests in his work (throughout the series) are particularly well-crafted, likable, and believable. Father Elijah is a wonderful example, especially as a bridge between two different faiths (Judaism and Catholicism) in the trying times to come.
Overall, this was a wonderful book that conveys truth through an entertaining, spiritually fulfilling, and believable story. O'Brien's achievements cannot be understated, and his commitment to a cause is admirable.
With that out of the way, there are things I do like. The faith struggles that the characters have are presented in a believable way. More than that. It comes across as tender, and moving. And I was truly moved by the sequence where they find Mary’s tomb. I’d have to rate O’Brien’s strength principally in how he deals with faith on a personal level. And that alone makes it worth the read.