Blind Side of the Heart

Overview

From the author of the critically acclaimed novel A Brother's Blood, comes a haunting story about an Irish housekeeper who must discover the truth when her friend, the parish priest, is accused of horrible crimes.

Maggie Quinn has had her share of misfortune: Having grown up poor and fatherless in Galway, she was forced to quit school early and find work to support her ailing mother and her own child. But when a tragedy of her own making strikes, it is too much for her to bear. ...

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Blind Side of the Heart

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Overview

From the author of the critically acclaimed novel A Brother's Blood, comes a haunting story about an Irish housekeeper who must discover the truth when her friend, the parish priest, is accused of horrible crimes.

Maggie Quinn has had her share of misfortune: Having grown up poor and fatherless in Galway, she was forced to quit school early and find work to support her ailing mother and her own child. But when a tragedy of her own making strikes, it is too much for her to bear. Plagued by feelings of guilt and sorrow and by losing her faith in God, she runs from her past; first by fleeing Ireland for America and later by drowning her sorrows with the bottle. Maggie hits rock bottom when she makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt. While recuperating in a hospital bed, she meets the remarkable Father Jack Devlin. With his compassion and love, Maggie once more finds her faith and a reason to live.

For the past eighteen years, Maggie has devoted herself to the man who saved her life. But now Father Jack, the beloved if controversial priest in the small town of Hebron Falls, Massachusetts, is accused of having done terrible things to altar boys many years before. At first Maggie is convinced that the accusations are only lies brought out by Father Jack's enemies. Yet as she sifts through the memories of her life with Father Jack, doubts begin to emerge: Could she have been blind to a darker side of her friend all these years? And when new information surfaces regarding the unsolved murder of a young altar boy with possible links to Father Jack, her faith is once again put to the test. Maggie must search her memory and her heart to help her decide what to believe. The Blind Side of the Heart poignantly captures one woman's struggle to remain loyal to a friend while at the same time she is forced to examine her conscience to arrive at the truth.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
White's detailed and engrossing second novel (after A Brother's Blood) follows class tensions, shame and loyalty among New England's Irish-American Catholics when a scandal shakes a small-town church. Eighteen years before the novel begins, Father John Thomas Devlin rescued White's appealing, ingenuous narrator, Irish immigrant Maggie "Ma" Quinn, from alcoholism, prostitution and destitution. Since then, she's worked as the loyal live-in housekeeper at the rectory of his church in western Massachusetts. Maggie is stunned and disbelieving when two adult brothers, Bobby and Russell Roby, allege that the upright, selfless, and hardworking priest molested them when they were boys, 15 years ago. As police and press descend on their community, gossip swirls around Maggie and Father Jack; townsfolk begin to ostracize them. Maggie, like the reader, gradually begins to doubt the priest she once trusted. After Father Jack is arrested and relieved of his duties, Maggie starts drinking heavily, and inadvertently gives damaging testimony at Father Jack's trial. When the priest accepts a plea bargain, Maggie considers his four-year sentence her fault. Then Father Jack is indicted again, for the long-unsolved murder of an altar boy. Though her judgment seems rock solid, Maggie's drinking undermines her credibility as a narrator. Yet her melancholy, singular voice is so strong, her faith in herself and in Father Jack so compelling, that readers will speed through the book in order to discover the truth. Agent, Nat Sobel. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Father Jack Devlin has been the parish priest in a small Massachusetts town for more than 20 years when two former altar boys accuse him of molesting them many years ago. Though the boys have criminal records and questionable credibility, the town's loyalty to Father Devlin is torn. Only Maggie Quinn, his longtime housekeeper, is convinced of his innocence. The trial is volatile, the press is out for blood, and Maggie's drinking diminishes the impact of her testimony. Alone in the rectory throughout the trial, Maggie begins to doubt her own certainty. Then the unsolved murder of a young boy resurfaces, and town talk links it with Devlin's case. The case is reopened, and Devlin is once again scheduled for trial, aided by the tireless efforts of Leo Manzetti, his crusty legal counsel. White (A Brother's Blood) has received high praise for earlier works, and this latest offering should be equally well received. Its taut suspense, well-crafted characters, and dense atmosphere of justice and belief are compelling. Highly recommended.--Susan Clifford, Aerospace Corp., El Segundo, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Editor and novelist White (American Fiction IV, 1993, etc.; the mystery A Brother's Blood, 1996) describes the trial of a Catholic priest for sodomy and murder in a small Massachusetts town. Behind every good priest, in this country at least, stands an Irish widow with an iron and a broom. Maggie Quinn seems to fit the rectory housekeeper mold pretty well: Fiercely loyal to her employer, Father Jack Devlin, she nurses him when he's sick, worries when he comes home late, and allows herself a drop of his Jameson's now and again when his back is turned. A single mother from County Galway, Maggie left Ireland brokenhearted after her young son drowned. Once in the States, though, she went from bad to worse and finally ended up in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt. There she was found by Father Jack, who got her back on her feet and gave her a new lease on life. Now, though, her placid world starts to unravel anew when two former altar boys accuse Father Jack of rape. Maggie sticks by Father Jack even after he's convicted and sent to jail, proclaiming his innocence to her neighbors and suffering no small humiliation as a result. But things become even more ominous when, while in prison, Father Jack is indicted again—this time for the murder of a 12-year-old boy. Again, Maggie comes to the priest's defense, but some of the details of the case are troubling, even to her. Has she misplaced her trust? Or is it simply being tried? In the end, Maggie discovers that "faith" means a lot more than the Penny Catechism let on. Overlong and written in a rambling, anecdotal style ("Now Mrs. Burke had a son named Franny, and here's where things take a bad turn") that's annoying.But White's narrative is strong enough to overcome his own verbosity and provides some nice twists along the way.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060932350
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/23/2001
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael C. White

Michael White's previous novels include the New York Times Notable Book A Brother's Blood as well as The Garden of Martyrs and Soul Catcher, both Connecticut Book of the Year finalists. He is the director of Fairfield University's MFA program in creative writing, and lives in Connecticut.

Biography

Michael C. White is the author of four previous novels: A Brother's Blood, which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers nominee, as well as nominated for an Edgar; The Blind Side of the Heart, an Alternate Book-of-the-Month Club selection; and A Dream of Wolves, which received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher's Weekly. The Garden of Martyrs (May 2004) was a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award in 2005, and he also has a collection of short stories, Marked Men. He has also published over 45 short stories in national magazines and journals, and has won the Advocate Newspapers Fiction Award and been nominated for both a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart. He was the founding editor of the yearly fiction anthology American Fiction. Currently he is the editor of Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose.

He teaches fiction writing workshops and literature courses at Fairfield University, and is on the faculty of Stonecoast, the University of Southern Maine's low-residency MFA program. He lives on a lake in Connecticut with his dog Henry.
Author biography courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Good To Know

When I was in grad school in Denver, evenings I worked as a bouncer in a bar. I got the job mostly because I knew the manager from working out together in the local weight room. Though I had no experience whatsoever, somehow he was under the mistaken impression that I was tough, and offered me the job. It seemed easy, offered free food and drinks, and I thought it was a writerly sort of position, one that I could one day put down alongside my various jobs of painting, guard duty, and selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. So I said yes. How hard could it be, I thought. My very first night on the job, though, proved me wrong. It was closing time and a drunken cowboy was trying to convince a woman to go home with him, and "no" wasn't in his vocabulary. He got very angry and started to yell and threaten her and the bartender and everyone else within range. At this point, the manager called upon the services of the bouncer-yours truly. The manager told me to throw him out on his ear. I didn't know if I was literally supposed to make him land on his ear or not, but it turned out he was much bigger than I was and throwing him out in any fashion wasn't an option. He threatened to beat my head to a pulp. I My fear honed my creative skills. With everyone watching, I leaned toward the man and whispered in his ear: "You probably could beat my head to a pulp, but if you do, I'll be in the hospital and you'll be in jail, and we'll both regret it." Luckily, he was sober enough to see the wisdom of this and, grumbling, stormed out of the bar.

I grew up in a very blue collar family. My father was a farmer and later a carpenter, and when I was a boy I used to accompany him to work, helping him saw boards and pound nails. It was hard work, and I soon realized I didn't want to do something like that for the rest of my life. I've had only two career dreams. Throughout school I played baseball and hoped one day to play professional ball. A torn rotator put an end to those dreams. After that, my only other dream was to become a writer. I just hope I don't come down with carpel tunnel because I'm too old to start a third career.

I enjoy fly fishing, hiking, biking, and working out in the gym.

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    1. Hometown:
      Guilford, CT, USA
    1. Date of Birth:
      1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Hartford, CT, USA
    1. Education:
      University of Connecticut - B.A., English; M.A., English, 1975, 1977; University of Denver - Ph.D., English
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

As good a place as any to begin might be those Tuesdays. Right smack in the middle of Father's troubles. You might say it was like being in the eye of the storm. Behind us everything raging, ahead we could only guess what waited, but right there, a kind of quiet sanctuary, at least for an hour each week. On Tuesday, which has always been my day off, I'd get in my car and head down to visit Father Jack. Not every week, mind you, seeing as I had my responsibilities, but as often as I was able. I'd try to slip out of the rectory before half nine as Father Martin got back from early Mass then. By rights, it was my day off and none of his concern what I did on my own time. Still and all, I liked to be gone while he was over to the church. Otherwise, he'd give me some last-minute chore to do, some errand he wanted me to run, or at the very least, one of those censuring looks of his when he knew I was going to see his predecessor, almost as if to remind me who paid my wages now. Truth is, I never liked the man, though maybe I never gave him a fair shake.

It wasn't easy making those trips, especially for someone like myself who didn't learn to drive till she was nearly thirty-you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. A half hour over the mountains just to get to the highway, then another hour down to the city. All the while worrying about bad weather, which you'd think twenty-five years in this cold, godforsaken New England would've cured me of. The worst of it came when I got there though: seeing Father like that, in that bloody, stinkin' place.

I used to bring him things to eat, home-baked treats to put some meat on him. Sodabread, scones with creamy icing, Irish whiskey cake from a recipe of my mother's. But he especially liked my zucchini bread. I grew the squash myself in a small garden behind the rectory. I'd make a dozen loaves and put them away in the freezer. On cold winter evenings, I used to warm a piece and serve it to him with some butter and a cup of tea while he worked in his study. He loved it. And though it wasn't the sort of topic to talk about in polite company, Father had always had problems moving his bowels and the zucchini kept him regular as the mail.

I was in the habit of stopping at a store and picking him up a few items-toiletries and mints and suchlike. And I'd bring him some clean socks and underwear I'd dug out of boxes Father Martin had had removed to the basement. Father Jack's underwear always used to be upstairs, in the second drawer of his bureau, where Father Martin's clothes were now: T-shirts on the left side, underwear on the right, dividing them, his socks, everything folded and neat as a pin. Sometimes I'd even sneak Father some parish stationery to write on, despite the fact he was forbidden to use it, per order of Monsignor Payne (Old Payne-in-the-arse, Father used to call him). But what would it hurt, a little paper to write on? Did they begrudge him that? Not that Father was much on writing letters, mind you.

And since Father had always been a great one for the books, I'd bring him things to read, too. You only had to hear him talk to know he was a person of great learning. Always with his nose in a book, that was Father for you. Many's the night he'd fall asleep in his study with a volume across his chest, his reading glasses resting on his nose. On my previous visit he'd give me a list of titles to pick up from his library, which also was stored in boxes in the basement, though I never let on to him, didn't see any cause to. I'd have to go hunting through box after box looking for things like The Golden Legend or Borromeo's Instructions for the Building of Churches, perhaps Augustine's Confessions or the Summa Theologica—in Latin no less! If he didn't tell me what to bring, I might pick him up a sporting magazine. Not quite the heady fare he was used to, but something to occupy himself. Besides, Father had always taken a lively interest in sports. He used to follow the Red Sox and the Celtics. From what I understand, he'd been quite a basketball player In college, and you'd often find him playing a pickup game with some of the lads out in the driveway. He'd been an avid golfer, too. In the old days, himself and Father Duncan and Pete Beaupre, close friends both, would play over at the country club. The old days indeed. Seems like a million years ago.

But I'm straying, which you'll notice I have a bad habit of doing. Anyway, on this particular Tuesday, I parked my Toyota and started walking across the lot. It was a cold and disagreeable morning, overcast and gray, with a raw March wind that cut you to the quick. It hinted at snow, and I was already worrying about the ride home. I had to hold my bandanna tight about my neck. As I approached the visitors' entrance, my eye caught, as it always seemed to, the large green sign to the right of the gate: HOLDEN COUNTY HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS. It never failed to send a tremor scooting up the back of my neck. Each time, it took a deliberate stiffening of the muscles in my lower back to go in. And once inside, there'd be that terrible odor I'd grown to know all too well: the sour stench of feet and sweat, of urine and shite and vomit, of bodies packed too close together. The smell of lost souls is the way it always struck me, like I was entering hell itself...

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