Review: Priest

Review: PriestPriest (Priest, #1) by Sierra Simone
on June 18, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 354

FINAL DECISION: Shock content but very shallow. The “priest” in this book knows nothing about being a priest and never acts the part at any part in this book. I didn’t find any connection between these characters.

THE STORY: Tyler Bell is a priest who has his world changed when Poppy Danforth comes into his confessional one day.

OPINION: This book disappointed me on all levels. It was not edgy, it did not depict any real conflict on Tyler’s part, and it didn’t even deliver a particularly good romance. I’ve read other books by Simone that were really good.  If I had started with this book, I wouldn’t have read any further.

Tyler doesn’t seem like a well formed character. If an author is going to set up a conflict, there should be something real about it if the book pretends to take place in contemporary society. Unfortunately, this book strikes me as someone who thinks they know about Catholicism and thus has done no research into the actual conflicts that arise when a priest falls in love. Priests do leave the priesthood, but this hero strikes me as someone who doesn’t really have a deep spiritual life that would be expected from someone who went through the formation for the priesthood. The unreality about and denigration of the Catholic religion made this book unreadable for me and it took me weeks to get through it. And the denigration is not the attempt to be edgy and have characters do incredibly blasphemous acts. It is the fact that Tyler’s conflict doesn’t feel real.

For example, at one point he goes to his congregation and states that “God is bigger than our sins. God wants you as you are — stumbling, sinning, confused…This won’t come easy to us Catholics. In a way, it’s easier to dwell on sin and guilt than it is to dwell on love and forgiveness.”  Ironic, considering that this is the exact purpose of Sacrament of Reconciliation aka Confession. Catholics should be aware that God loves them and wants them to come to him and will receive love and forgiveness. Any priest who has gone through a modern formation would certainly be aware of the focus on this by the Catholic Church. It is a stereotype of the Church that it is gloomy and sin focused.

Not only at this point, but throughout the book, Tyler doesn’t seem to know much about an adult, full educated and informed Catholicism as would be required of a man who had gone through the rigorous formation necessary to become a priest. The Church has suffered from a number of bad, horrible, non-faithful priests throughout the years breaking their vows and committing horrible crimes, but this is supposed to be the hero of the story.

This could have been a great book if it had taken Tyler’s conflict seriously. Instead, the book seems like it is arguing against a straw-man version of the Church. I know of several men who left the priesthood for various reasons related to their changing view of their purpose in life. Perhaps they wanted to be married, perhaps they decided they had differing views from the Church. This book doesn’t take the conflict seriously because it comes from a lack of correct information.

I had another visceral problem with Tyler’s journey. In Catholic parlance, a priest is married to the Church. Thus, from the beginning Tyler is committing a type of adultery with Poppy. Perhaps because I took his vows to the Church seriously, I didn’t find his pursuit of Poppy (from the moment he met her) as romantic, but rather as a type of betrayal. In essence, this is a cheating book for me and in order for me to accept the romance, I have to have real reasons for the break from the existing relationship. The inability to provide any real foundation for Tyler’s dissatisfaction with his priestly state — other than wanting sex — undermined this book at every turn.

This fed into my real problem with this book — the romance just didn’t work. There was no connection between Tyler and Poppy other than sex. While sex can work to create a relationship in romances. Here, I never got a sense that these characters had any connection other than lust. Poppy never really gets to know Tyler and Tyler certainly doesn’t connect with Poppy’s interior life. Indeed, my conclusion at the end of this book is that neither of these characters have any deep interior at all.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book gets so many basic facts about the Catholic priesthood wrong, it was difficult for me to take it seriously from the beginning. Other readers who don’t know basic things like it takes at least 6 to 9 years for a man to become a priest might not be so bothered.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PRIEST is the first in the Priest series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 1.5 stars.