The Bishop's Man
|Publisher||Random House Canada|
|Media type||Print (hardcover, paperback)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-307-35706-6 (10) & ISBN 978-0-307-35706-9 (13)|
The Bishop's Man is a novel by Canadian writer Linden MacIntyre, published in August 2009. The story follows a Catholic priest named Duncan MacAskill who became so successful at resolving potential church scandals quickly and quietly that he had to accept a position at a remote parish on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia to give himself a low profile. MacIntyre, a native of Cape Breton, released the novel amidst the on-going sexual abuse scandal in Antigonish diocese in Nova Scotia. The book was awarded the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Canadian Booksellers Association's Fiction Book of the Year. Critics gave positive reviews, especially noting MacIntyre's successful development of characters.
At the time of the book's publication, author Linden MacIntyre was 66 years old and living in Toronto with his wife Carol Off. MacIntyre was working at CBC Television where he had been the co-host of the fifth estate since 1990. He had written one previous novel, The Long Stretch, which was published in 1999. Both The Long Stretch and The Bishop's Man were set on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia where MacIntyre was raised. As a child, MacIntyre was raised by an Irish-Catholic mother and attended church regularly where the local priest inspired him to consider becoming a priest.
The book was published at the same time as a $15 million settlement was reached in the sexual abuse scandal in Antigonish diocese in Nova Scotia. Evidence emerged that the principal offender, Bishop Raymond Lahey may have assumed the role of the bishop's man in sexual abuse scandal in St. John's archdiocese in Newfoundland in 1989 when he served under then-archbishop Alphonsus Liguori Penney. In an ecclesiastical context, the term bishop's man generally refers to the title of vicar general, who serves as the diocesan bishop's principal deputy for the exercise of administrative authority or refers to the title of auxiliary bishop, a priest who is consecrated as an episcopal assistant to the local ordinary. The Bishop's Man is noted as one of the first cultural depictions of the Catholic sexual abuse scandals. In translating real-life situations to fiction MacIntyre stated, "I do believe that the very best of fiction is based on fact...and an awful lot of the factual situations I've been involved with just scream out for creative elaboration."
The story follows the life of a Catholic priest named Duncan MacAskill. In the 1970s MacAskill convinced a rural Nova Scotia priest who impregnated his own housekeeper to quickly move to Toronto and avoided what could have been a significant local controversy. MacAskill was subsequently called upon numerous times by the Catholic Church to quietly resolve numerous potential controversies. By the 1990s, MacAskill was the dean of a Nova Scotia Catholic university. He is soon sent to oversee a remote Cape Breton Island parish where he would have a low profile, deal with a new impending public controversy, and come to terms with the consequences of his past cover-ups.
Publication and reception
The Bishop's Man was published by Random House Canada and released in August 2009. It debuted on Maclean's bestsellers list in the August 28 issue at #8. In early-October The Bishop's Man was included on the shortlist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and it reached #5 on the bestseller list on October 15. While it fell back to the #9 spot on November 5, it remained at #1 for several months after being awarded the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize. At its Libris Awards, the Canadian Booksellers Association awarded The Bishop's Man its Fiction Book of the Year and Linden MacIntyre its Author of the Year award. The book was also awarded the Atlantic Independent Booksellers' Choice Award and the Dartmouth Book Award (Fiction) by the Atlantic Book Awards Society.
In the Quill & Quire Quebec writer Paul Gessell said that he found the characters to be "very credible" and "complex" but concluded that "at times, the plot is convoluted and the back-and-forth chronology gets rather tiresome. Generally, however, it is a well-crafted, brave, and painful examination of one of the most monstrous issues of our time." The review in Publishers Weekly found the book to be an "engrossing, lyrical page-turner".
Author Nicholas Pashley reviewed the book for the National Post, writing that "Some readers might find MacIntyre's frequent timeshifting a distraction, but by and large the author handles the various decades of his tale deftly. And as a native Cape Bretoner himself, he brings the region and its residents vividly to life." In the Telegraph-Journal, Sylvie Fitzgerald writes that regarding the characterization "MacIntyre succeeds in demystifying the man beneath the medieval vestments, reminding us that a priest is a man first" and that "MacIntyre's work is resuscitated with colourful local colloquialism".
- Wagner, Vit (August 3, 2009). "New novel set amid church's abuse scandal". Toronto Star. pp. E1.
- "Suspicion about Lahey raised 20 years ago". The Catholic Register. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- Friscolanti, Michael (December 7, 2009). "The Truth About Priests". Maclean's 122 (47): 42–45. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- Barber, John (August 20, 2009). "Mining fact for fiction". The Globe and Mail. pp. R1. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- "Maclean's Bestsellers - Fiction". Maclean's 122 (46): 73. November 30, 2009. Note: The book remained at #1 until late-March 2010, except for the week of February 8 during which it was #2 on the besteller list.
- Medley, Mark (November 11, 2009). "CBC journalist wins Giller Prize". The Vancouver Sun. pp. E6.
- Barber, John (November 10, 2009). "MacIntyre takes Giller Prize". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- "CBA Libris Awards 2010". Canadian Booksellers Association. May 29, 2010. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- "Linden MacIntyre wins two Atlantic Book Awards for 'The Bishop's Man'". The Canadian Press (Canadian Press Enterprises Inc.). April 15, 2010.
- Gessell, Paul (September 2009). "The Bishop's Man". Quill & Quire 75 (7): 48–49.
- "The Bishop's Man". Publishers Weekly 257 (32): 33–34. August 16, 2010.
- Pashley, Nicholas (August 8, 2009). "When a fixer breaks". National Post. p. WP8.
- Fitzgerald, Sylvie (October 24, 2009). "Questioning redemption". Telegraph-Journal (Saint John, New Brunswick). p. G6.