Angel Light: An Old-Fashioned Love Storyby Andrew M. Greeley
"I do not want ten million dollars. I do not want to visit Ireland. I do not want to end a Tobin family feud. And, above all, I do not want to court my eighth cousin, once removed." Even as he says the words, "Toby" Tobin, Irish-American computer hacker, knows it's useless to resist. His late great-uncle's will must be obeyed, and his family is determined to make
"I do not want ten million dollars. I do not want to visit Ireland. I do not want to end a Tobin family feud. And, above all, I do not want to court my eighth cousin, once removed." Even as he says the words, "Toby" Tobin, Irish-American computer hacker, knows it's useless to resist. His late great-uncle's will must be obeyed, and his family is determined to make him respectable by his twenty-fifth birthday.
Encouraged by a photo of his cousin, Sara Anne Elizabeth Tobin, with her gorgeous black hair, blue eyes, and pale skin, Toby checks his computer for travel arrangements to Ireland. He finds himself chatting with an unusual travel agent, Raphaella, a very modern angel, who's been surfing the net for someone to look after.
Raphaella gives him a new passport and first-class plane tickets out of O'Hare, and the encouragement and good humor he'll need on his quest for a living grail--the beautiful, mysterious, troubled, young Sara Tobin. He must marry Sara within the month (and solve an ancient mystery and elude a threatening thug) in order to claim his inheritance.
Angel Light is based on the Book of Tobis in the Old Testament, one of the sweetest love stories ever told.
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An Old-Fashioned Love Story
By Andrew M. Greeley
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1995 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
"I do not want ten million dollars, I do not want to visit Ireland, I do not want to end a Tobin family feud, and above all I do not want to court my eighth cousin, once removed."
To emphasize this last point I threw on the coffee table the photograph of Sara Anne Elizabeth Tobin. She seemed in the snapshot to be an attractive young woman, possibly even beautiful in the Irish fashion — dark black hair, penetrating blue eyes, pale skin, a radiant smile, all giving her finely carved face an appearance of merriment which promised to be constant in her life. Sara Anne Elizabeth Tobin, minus the sweatshirt and jeans that were a uniform for her kind and in the appropriate peasant garb (with red petticoats), might well be a character in a play by William Butler Yeats or John M. Synge, an attendant to Kathleen ni Houlihan in the former or a rival to Pegeen Mike in the latter.
Yeah, I know about Irish literature. It doesn't follow that I should want to visit the place.
"She looks like a darling girl," my mother said mildly after a loud sigh, "just the sort that would settle you down."
That was just the problem. Sara Tobin's lovely oval face ended in a chin that indicated fierce determination, and her eyes for all their dark beauty hinted that she would tolerate no opposition from someone as foolish as a man. I knew her kind well — mothers, sisters, classmates, dates — all determined to settle me down and make something out of me.
For my own good, naturally.
Sara Tobin would take it as her mission in life, in conspiracy with my mother and sisters, to woo me from my computers and my experimental programs and into a respectable profession — law, medicine, commodity trading, maybe even into the academy like my father. Teach accounting and be a dean like he is, not all that much money when you have four children (three daughters and a son) but very respectable just the same, and look at all you can earn by consulting with business firms.
"Respectability," my priest says, "is something for which the Irish will always seek, no matter how many generations they have been in America. If they gave up the search, they would deprive their woman kind of their perennial cry, 'What will people say?'"
It would be all right to teach computer science (at the college level, of course) and to earn a Ph.D. as a condition for that. Just so long as I wasn't a visionary hiding in the attic, pondering the mysteries of the Internet, and planning to be the Bill Gates of the fin de siècle. That wasn't respectable.
No future in it.
Nor was it respectable to refuse an offer of ten million dollars. A point my father was eager to make.
He cleared his throat as he always did, the business school dean with weak eyes preparing to deliver wisdom. Ex cathedra as they say at the Vatican.
"I, ah, would not want to suggest, Toby, that you should court this young woman merely for the, er, ten million dollars. I admit that your great-uncle's will is a little strange. Why it should be necessary for you to make peace with our distant relatives in a feud of which we have never heard and marry your distant cousin escapes me completely. Yet I would think that the challenge would be a romantic adventure that would appeal to a young man. It's a lot of money to turn down flat."
"I'm too young to marry."
"You're twenty-five," my sister Maureen, age twenty-eight and already the mother of two children, insisted.
"You'll never be old enough," my sister Megan, age sixteen and obnoxiously bright, said with an affectionate chuckle. "But that's what makes you attractive to women!"
Megan was the only woman who seemed to like me as I am.
"She looks like she might be pretty good in bed," my sister Nicole, twenty-seven and engaged, observed. "That's what you want, isn't it, Toby? A woman to sleep with. That's what all men your age want. Too bad Great-Uncle Gerry insists that you marry the girl."
Nicole was absolutely correct. A man my age cannot escape obscene fantasies as his hormones push him towards sexual union. I had indeed evaluated the lovely Sara as a possible partner. One couldn't tell about such matters from a picture. But one could see in the picture the chin and the eyes. Not worth it.
"No," I said. "No way."
"Long speech for you," Megan informed me.
So it had been since we had been summoned to the old-fashioned law office (complete with a rolltop desk) in East Bend, South Dakota, where one Joshua McAdam, an elderly lawyer in a string tie, had read Great-Uncle Gerry's will. He had bequeathed to one G. Patrick Tobin Jr. ten million dollars (after taxes) if I (a) bore a letter to Galway, Ireland, to his distant cousin Ronan that would end the Tobin family feud and (b) married Ronan's daughter Sara. I was forbidden to discuss the bequest with her until after the marriage.
"Why me?" I protested.
"It is a bit unusual." The lawyer chuckled. "Your great-uncle was a very successful rancher and businessman, as you can tell, but he had some strange ideas."
We did not know he existed. Indeed he was not, strictly speaking, a great-uncle at all, but rather some kind of shirttail cousin.
"How wonderful," my mother said.
"An exciting challenge, Toby," my father said. "We didn't even name you after him. Apparently he thought so."
"Toby with a wife." Maureen giggled.
"She'll never marry you," Megan challenged me. "Why should a woman that beautiful settle for a creep like you, especially since you can't tell her about the will or you lose everything?"
She winked when she spoke, making fun of the family party line about me with which she disagreed.
"Gorgeous boobs, Toby." Nicole considered the snapshot carefully. "Might be worth the effort."
"What was the feud about?" my father asked.
"The late Gerard Tobin did not say. I'm not even sure he knew. It seems to have persisted since 1807. Incidentally, Mr. Tobin Senior, he has bequeathed to you title to whatever rights the family may have to Tobin's Mountain in Ireland."
"I'm afraid," my father said primly, "that there is not much value in an Irish mountain."
"Maybe it's one of those under which there is a lot of gold," I said, trying to distract attention from Sara Tobin.
"Please, Toby." My father sighed loudly. "Would you try to be serious for a moment? There are no mountains of gold in Ireland."
Actually there were. Or at least there was a serious claim that there was a lot of gold under the sacred mountain of Crough Patrick and other mountains in the area. But I knew better than to try to argue when my parents insisted that I be serious — no matter what the facts of the matter were.
"You really wouldn't have much to lose, Toby Junior," my mother pointed out. "It's not like you'd have to take time off work or anything."
In the view of my family, I was unemployed. That I made more as an occasional programmer and consultant than my dad did as a dean was irrelevant.
"We went to Ireland on our honeymoon," Maureen said proudly.
"I'm authorized as the executor of the late Mr. Gerard Tobin's estate to advance you the money for one round-trip coach fare to Ireland. Unfortunately there won't be any funds for room and board. You will have one month from this date to win the hand of Ms. Tobin."
"That makes it a real challenge, Toby!" My father smiled happily, like it was his challenge, and like it hadn't taken him four years to work up enough nerve to propose to my mother.
"I'm not going to Ireland. I don't like to travel."
The University of Notre Dame, which I did not attend, seventy-five miles away from the city limits of Chicago on Interstate 90, was, in my considered judgment, too far to travel.
I must say a word about my family since they play an important if indirect role in my quest for the Galway Grail (which could be a name for an NBA team when it expands to Ireland). They are all good people and they worry about me because I don't follow their plans for me.
My mother, a not unattractive, plump and silver-haired woman in her middle fifties, is the daughter of dirt-poor Irish immigrants who came to America in the 1930s. She graduated from high school but did not attend college. She has never quite recovered from the poverty of her youth; she feels that when she married a professor, she married up; and therefore (in her logic) she believes that it is her solemn obligation to achieve respectability for all her children. She also breeds (skillfully and successfully) Irish wolfhounds, which I admit does not fit the pattern.
I think my father loves her, though he does so with the passion appropriate for a business school dean — which means that he is never demonstrative. Some of the women I have dated — if what I do can be called that — tell me enthusiastically that Dad looks like Captain Jean Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise. Bald, it would seem, is now beautiful. In fact, my father has somewhat more hair and a somewhat less lean face.
On the rearing of his children he deferred to his wife completely. Hence the two oldest, both daughters, have been molded in their mother's image and likeness. Presentable enough blondes (with the lean and hungry look of dedicated joggers and consumers of "natural food"), they live in a fantasy world in which they must not only be paragons of respectability (as they rigidly define it) but also must sit in judgment on the respectability of everyone else in the world, from the people who live next door to Hillary Rodham Clinton. They are so busy at this task that they have little time to read even the daily papers.
Maureen's husband and Nicole's fiance, like their women, work in "financial services," which is a thoroughly respectable occupation, though the men are both hollow and will never rise above lower middle-level positions. Jogging is for all four of them an activity that, like eating "natural foods," has acquired the aura not only of respectability but of moral excellence. They have little regard for my dedication to basketball and Chicago (sixteen-inch) softball because such amusements are "competitive."
No one pays much attention to tall, rangy, black-haired Megan, who plays basketball and serves as class president (elected without opposition) at St. Ignatius College Prep, where she has a 4.0 average and plays the guitar. She writes music, using a computer program I designed, but no one else in the family knows that.
As the first and only son in the family, great things were expected of me — success, respectability, public acclaim (the public being St. Hilary's parish on the north side of Chicago and the parish environs). When I chose in grammar school to go down my own path, the family made a project out of me, a project that eventually deteriorated into beating up (figuratively) on Toby at every possible opportunity. It mattered not what I did. If I chose to go north, then the only proper course would have been to go south. If on the other hand I changed and went south, they criticized me for not having the courage of my convictions and sticking with north. Heads they won, tails Toby lost. So what else is new?
My name says it all. My father is Gerard Patrick Tobin, as he is called by the Wall Street Journal when it quotes him on business ethics. (His positions are always highly ethical, as is his own personal moral code.) But he has been Toby all his life to those close to him. I am a Junior, but my mother has always insisted that I am G. Patrick Tobin Jr. or, more informally, Toby Junior. She says my name sounds like that of a tycoon, apparently because in her days as a stenographer she worked for a bank vice president (not a senior vice president) named R. Burke McGee III. So I have been "Gerard" in school, "Toby Junior" at home and "Toby" to my friends, never "Pat," a name of which I would have been very proud.
"Toby Junior" has given way to "Toby" some of the time when the tone of Mom's voice reveals that it is me to whom she is addressing a complaint.
Mostly I tune them out. Their morally high-toned complaints are the Muzak of my life. I should have moved out of the family house long ago, but I was too busy with other matters to find the time.
"I hear Irish women are pretty easy these days," Nicole said sarcastically. "Maybe you can get her to sleep with you. That would be typical of you, wouldn't it?"
"They'll wear you down, Toby," Megan chimed in. "Face it, you can't stand up to the whole family when we gang up on you."
"Yes I can."
"No, you can't."
As usual, the little brat was right.CHAPTER 2
I was logging on through the computer "gate" at the university to the worldwide network of computers that is supposed to be the first step towards the much-hyped "Information Highway." Anyone who has tried to struggle with the Internet knows that in fact it is an information cow path. As in everything else in the current world of computers, our software has not kept up with our hardware. That's where I would make my fortune. I would design user-friendly (and I mean totally friendly) software for the Information Highway. My users wouldn't have to worry about such things as TCP/IP, SLIP/PPP, WAIS, WWW, Gophers, Veronica, etc., etc. They'll merely tell the NET what they're looking for and it will respond to them.
Long wait. Then the usual log-on gibberish which impressed second-rate hackers but which disgusted me because it was just one more touch of elitist crap designed to make ordinary folks feel that they were computer-illiterate, folks who I hoped would someday be my clients.
At last. Now I would activate my preliminary design for mastering the Net — and the first step to mastering the Information Highway, should it ever exist.
I'm a nerd and a hacker. As one of my dates (my most recent failure) said, "Toby, you're a nerd. You don't look like a nerd. Sometimes you don't act like a nerd. But you're a nerd just the same."
I had been explaining to her that the Information Highway, about which Vice President Gore had been talking so much, wouldn't work unless there were absolutely user-friendly interfaces. "Don't believe all the stuff you read about Internet. It's about as user-friendly as a cyclotron."
Then she asked what a cyclotron was and I tried to explain, knowing that the relationship had no future. In the middle of my first sentence, she informed me that I was a nerd.
Probably she was right. But I wished she had given me a chance to explain about DABEST, the first step in rendering Internet and the Information Highway user-friendly — Data Access and Better Entry System Technology.
Area of interest?
I paused, shook my head in dismay at how easily my family had worn me down.
2. Young man who has not been there
3. Never traveled before
4. Does not like travel
5. Absentminded on occasion and needs watching.
As I told everyone who would listen to me, you had to be honest with DABEST if you wanted good results.
I hesitated before responding to that prompt.
6. Must court young woman
Criteria finished. Searching.
The system rummaged around for several minutes. While DABEST speeds up access, it still is held to the upper limits of the Net. Its main contribution is its friendliness to the user. It does all the work of navigating the Net for you so long as you give it adequate criteria.
Yes? I am G. Patrick "Toby" Tobin. Junior. I want to travel to Ireland.
You're a travel agency, aren't you?
In a manner of speaking.
DABEST sometimes produces odd results. I have not tried to argue that I have eliminated all the bugs from the system.
I am very busy, G. Patrick "Toby" Tobin. Please do not bother me
Hey, come back!
Now, I should have realized then that there was something strange going on. Very strange. Neither the Net nor DABEST should be responsive to a command like:
Hey, come back!
Excerpted from Angel Light by Andrew M. Greeley. Copyright © 1995 Andrew M. Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Priest, sociologist, author and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley built an international assemblage of devout fans over a career spanning five decades. His books include the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels, including The Archbishop in Andalusia, the Nuala Anne McGrail novels, including Irish Tweed, and The Cardinal Virtues. He was the author of over 50 best-selling novels and more than 100 works of non-fiction, and his writing has been translated into 12 languages.
Father Greeley was a Professor of Sociology at the University of Arizona and a Research Associate with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. In addition to scholarly studies and popular fiction, for many years he penned a weekly column appearing in the Chicago Sun-Times and other newspapers. He was also a frequent contributor to The New York Times, the National Catholic Reporter, America and Commonweal, and was interviewed regularly on national radio and television. He authored hundreds of articles on sociological topics, ranging from school desegregation to elder sex to politics and the environment.
Throughout his priesthood, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to evolving concerns of Catholics everywhere. His clear writing style, consistent themes and celebrity stature made him a leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
In 1986, Father Greeley established a $1 million Catholic Inner-City School Fund, providing scholarships and financial support to schools in the Chicago Archdiocese with a minority student body of more than 50 percent. In 1984, he contributed a $1 million endowment to establish a chair in Roman Catholic Studies at the University of Chicago. He also funded an annual lecture series, "The Church in Society," at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, Illinois, from which he received his S.T.L. in 1954.
Father Greeley received many honors and awards, including honorary degrees from the National University of Ireland at Galway, the University of Arizona and Bard College. A Chicago native, he earned his M.A. in 1961 and his Ph.D. in 1962 from the University of Chicago.
Father Greeley was a penetrating student of popular culture, deeply engaged with the world around him, and a lifelong Chicago sports fan, cheering for the Bulls, Bears and the Cubs. Born in 1928, he died in May 2013 at the age of 85.
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This was my first Greeley book I have read and I am hooked. I love all of his books. He is a wonderful author to read and inspirational.
This was my first Greeley read. Fantastic, insightfull, heart warming!! I now read anything of Greeley's I can put my hands on. Angel Light was uplifting and I couldn't put it down. I wish all priests had Greeley's sense of humor, love of life, love of God, honesty and insight.