REVIEW: The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely

The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely
Published on January 21st, 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Hardcover; 304 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Families, Drug Abuse, Sexual Abuse
Source: Personal Collection
Avg. Goodreads Rating: 3.79
My rating★★★★

As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him.

When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love. [Via Goodreads]


Aidan Donovan’s family is falling apart. His father went on a trip and made no plans to return and his mother is so determined to carry on without him that she’s becoming nearly as absent as his father was. Aidan is close to his family’s housekeeper and turns to her for support and guidance on a regular basis. Her advice is for him to get involved with the church seeing as how his family only attends for appearances on holidays. He took her advice and found fellowship with Father Greg who is seemingly the only adult willing to listen to Aidan’s thoughts and feelings.

However, Father Greg’s intentions have never been pure or particularly helpful to anyone other than himself. Father Greg has been abusing Aidan for while by the time the novel begins. It’s only when Aidan realizes that Father Greg is pushing him away that he becomes upset. In his attempt to repair whatever went wrong with their “relationship” he discovers Father Greg’s secret– Aidan isn’t the only boy whom Father Greg “loves” in a special way. Aidan is beyond crushed and then disgusted. Then furious.

Aidan struggles not only with the aftermath of the abuse but also his family, his drug usage, and the stumbling blocks of average teenage existence. He wrestles with the idea of telling someone so that the pain will go away or keeping quiet about it in hopes that ignoring it will work too.

Kiely is a beautiful writer. So beautiful, in fact, that some of the character dialogue and thought processes for teens was a bit unbelievable. That little quirk aside I did enjoy this novel. It was very dark material, though. I felt like the supporting characters were a little too stereotypical but the plot and the writing was enough to distract me from that annoyance. Overall, this was very well written and realistic as far as the psychological aspects and I will be interested to see what Kiely publishes next. (His next novel is due out in 2016.)

This is Brendan Kiely’s first novel.


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