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Frank Turner Hollon's first novel is an unusual and affecting blend of storytelling and philosophy. In this story of loss, suffering, and a peculiar strain of faith, readers are introduced to Gabriel Black, a man in prison for a murder he didn't commit -- but who is all too familiar with violence, crime, and desperation. Gabriel is no saint, but he's full of questions about the significance of his apparently purposeless life, and about the unjust punishment that has befallen him.
These perplexing questions convince Gabriel to begin assembling his "God file," comprised of his notes on surviving in prison, his fellow inmates, childhood memories, letters received from the outside world, and letters never sent. The goal, in Gabriel's words, is "to collect the evidence…to look for God in the tiny details, the corners of my days in this place," and to use what's accumulated to decide for himself whether or not meaning can be found in his painful and violent existence.
The result is a fascinating set of linked short stories, character sketches, and essay-like meditations by Gabriel on such diverse subjects as faith, Darwinism, predestination, and television "weather ladies." Through the twists and turns of his notes on God, readers get to know Gabriel's personable and unapologetic voice; the voice of a man who knows well his own limitations, but cannot shake his belief that he has something to say to his creator.
In Gabriel Black, Frank Turner Hollon has created a memorable and deeply thoughtful narrator, with stories to tell that both surprise and inspire.
(Spring 2002 Selection)
Gabriel Black faces a life sentence after being convicted of the murder of his girlfriend's husband. He's not sure why he took the blame when she shot her husband in cold blood, and the answer to that question is just one of many he searches for as the years roll by. Gabriel's experience with religion is shallow, existing mainly in his memories of a Catholic childhood. With time on his hands, he decides to start a "God file" in which he keeps record of events occurring in prison that prove or disprove God's existence. After all, he figures, Jesus came to the poor, the downtrodden, and the forgotten, and no one fits that description better than an inmate. In brutal, explicit language, Gabriel shares the contents of his files and leaves it up to the reader to decide if he has found the God he was searching for or if God was guiding him all along. Not for the faint of heart, this is an outstanding example of the continuing exploration of gritty reality in spiritual fiction. For progressive collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Adult/High School-While riveting, this is a tough book to read. Those who choose to dive in, however, are in for a thought-provoking trip that will probably linger in their minds for some time. The first thing readers learn is that Gabriel Black is in prison, and has been for 22 years. Having read a book about a man miraculously cured of cancer, he questions the man's certainty that God's existence is thereby proven. He decides to try to find proof of God in jail, a place with "no real freedoms, surrounded everyday by fear, hopelessness, and people who live like rats." He writes and collects notes in his "God file," which is presented almost like an undated diary. Next, readers are told why he is imprisoned. He watched his girlfriend, Janie, shoot her husband, then took the blame. He never spoke with her again, she never acknowledged his sacrifice, and he never attempted to rectify the injustice. Just 25 when they met, he is not much older when sentenced to life without parole. Since the more one learns about Janie, the more despicable she becomes, one must wonder why he did it. As he reexamines his life through his notes and letters, as readers begin to piece together his life, it begins to make more sense. This novel explores one man's search for God and redemption.-Carol DeAngelo, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Alabama attorney Hollon (The Pains of April, 1999, not reviewed) does the jailhouse blues raw and quirky in this tale of a sensitive loser who took the murder-one rap for love, then spent the next 22 years methodically looking for God. Gabriel Black wasn't exactly on the fast track for success when his lover pulled out a gun and shot her husband dead with him looking on, but even so he didn't need to take the gun away from her and claim he did it. His act of sacrifice got him life without parole, and he never saw or heard from the woman again, even though he continues to imagine their lives together and writes her poignant letters. Having established on his cellblock that he is not a man to be buggered (by slicing open the scrotum of a would-be attacker), Gabriel is left alone, with plenty of time to create his "God file." Intended to serve as accumulated evidence of God's existence, it contains his letters, dreams, conversations with fellow inmates and accounts of prison experience, and above all reflections on his Catholic childhood, his fractured family, and who he has become. But the years of contemplation pale next to a single act of desperation, which leaves a man knifed to death in Gabriel's cell and him with a new perspective on living. A strong portrait of a man of nobility at odds with circumstance, but, ultimately, a world not much larger than the filebox Gabriel assembles so obsessively.