Crimes of the Father
by Thomas Keneally
Long before Thomas Keneally became an internationally respected and prize-winning writer, he spent six years training for the priesthood in his native Sydney, Australia. The two aspects of his life don’t so much meet as crash together in his latest novel, Crimes of the Father. It’s 1996, and Frank Docherty returns to Sydney after three decades spent in de facto exile in Canada, where he was posted after speaking out about the Vietnam war. Now a psychologist as well as a priest, Docherty has hardly touched down before his past returns (somewhat conveniently) to haunt him. His taxi driver happens to be a former nun who, in the course of the journey, tells him she was sexually abused by a priest years before. Docherty finds the priest in question is one of many within the church who have either harmed children or covered it up. This is a worthy and empathetic novel, albeit a little lifeless from being so even-handed. One cannot miss Keneally’s anger, but I wanted to be overwhelmed by it.