~ I lay next to Al, the man who would have married me, except for the rules.
St. Croix Valley, 1977
In a world where women’s opportunities are limited, devout Meg Joyce takes a job visiting homebound parishioners for St. Gabriel’s. Far from landing in a holy haven, the young and naive Meg finds herself fending off the priest from prayer group who tricks her into viewing a painting that hangs over his bed as he rants about the woman who gave it to him. Shaken, Meg confides in her brother, a gay man, who warns her to keep quiet since the bishop is likely glad his priest goes after women rather than other men or boys.
A challenge of a different sort looms when salt of the earth Fr. Al Vogel is assigned to the parish – the rugged stranger who helped her coax an elderly woman’s cat down from a tree, before learning he was a priest. Meg knows the rules and is loath to add another sin to her family’s litany of taboos, but when Fr. Al is injured in a car accident, the rules don’t make sense. Can she survive in his world of secrets and shadows? At what cost?
Against the backdrop of a Catholic Church reeling from Vatican II’s changes to long-held traditions, as well as impacts from women’s liberation, Meg grapples with the misogyny of an institution she once trusted, a crisis of faith in God, and a reckoning with her dreams.
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Midwest Review, 2nd Place, 2015
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To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.