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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About the Author
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.
Read an Excerpt
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 Theologicain 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...
What People are Saying About This
There is a secret at the center of this layered story that burns closer and closer, a bright terrible thing from which it is hard to look away. This book got a hold of me.
(Ron Carlson, author of Plan B for the Middle Class)
Maggie Quinn's faith in her Father is as hard to put aside as this book is tough to put down.
(Suzanne Strempek Shea, author of Selling the Lite of Heaven)
In one of the most moving mysteries in recent memory, Wilbraham author Michael C. White gets into the mind and heart of an Irish housekeeper whose devotion to the priest she works for is challenged by allegations that he is a child molester. Maggie Quinn, who has fled her past in Galway to make her way in the cold, gray hills of Western Massachusetts, is taken in by Father Jack Devlin, a quixotic priest who sees the best in her, and accepts the rest. Honest and wise despite a continued fondness for the bottle, Quinn spends 18 years watching Devlin minister to the Catholics of Hebron, Mass., including numerous children who flock to "Father Jack." When grown men accuse Devlin of abusing them 15 years ago, Quinn is forced to question all that she holds sacred. While the truth eludes her, Quinn finds that the heart of the matter is far more important.
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