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The Bishop's Man [Deckle Edge] [Paperback]

Linden MacIntyre
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 3 2010
Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed to a rowdy adolescent enthusiasm. This young man, I realized, was exceptional only because of time and place. Maybe any one of them in those circumstances would have been the same. Quiet. But he caught my attention nevertheless and linked the moment to tender places in the memory. Doomed boys and men: in retrospect they all have that stillness.
--from The Bishop’s Man by Linden MacIntyre
The year is 1993 and Father Duncan MacAskill stands at a small Cape Breton fishing harbour a few miles from where he grew up. Enjoying the timeless sight of a father and son piloting a boat, Duncan takes a moment’s rest from his worries. But he does not yet know that his already strained faith is about to be tested by his interactions with a troubled boy, 18-year-old Danny MacKay.
Known to fellow priests as the “Exorcist” because of his special role as clean-up man for the Bishop of Antigonish, Duncan has a talent for coolly reassigning deviant priests while ensuring minimal fuss from victims and their families. It has been a lonely vocation, but Duncan is generally satisfied that his work is a necessary defense of the church. All this changes when lawyers and a policeman snoop too close for the bishop’s comfort. Duncan is assigned a parish in the remote Cape Breton community of Creignish and told to wait it out.
This is not the first time Duncan has been sent away for knowing too much: decades ago, the displeased bishop sent a more idealistic Duncan to Honduras for voicing suspicions about a revered priest. It was there that Duncan first tasted forbidden love, with the beautiful Jacinta. It was also there that he met the courageous Father Alfonso, who taught him more about spiritual devotion than he had ever known back home. But when an act of violence in Honduras shook Duncan to his core, he returned home a changed man, willing to quietly execute the bishop’s commands.
Now, decades later in Cape Breton, Duncan claims to his concerned sister Effie that isolation is his preference. But when several women seek to befriend him, along with some long-estranged friends, Duncan is alternately tempted and unnerved by their attentions. Drink becomes his only solace.
Attempting to distract himself with parish work, Duncan takes an interest in troubled young Danny, whose good-hearted father sells Duncan a boat he names The Jacinta. To Duncan’s alarm, he discovers that the boy once spent time with an errant priest who had been dispatched by Duncan himself to Port Hood. Duncan begins to ask questions, dreading the answers. When tragedy strikes, he knows that he must act. But will his actions be those of a good priest, or an all too flawed man?
Winner of the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Linden MacIntyre’s searing The Bishop’s Man is an unforgettable and complex character study of a deeply conflicted man at the precipice of his life. Can we ever be certain of an individual’s guilt or innocence? Is violence ever justified? Can any act of contrition redeem our own complicity?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

Father Duncan MacAskill is called The Exorcist. Not in the traditional sense, however: at his bishop’s bidding, he drives out devils of a different sort – priests who molest children. He does not banish the devils to hell, nor to the police, but to discreet clinics or simply to far-off parishes to commence their sins anew. MacAskill’s loathsome bishop has a heart of ice. He refuses to see abused children as victims. They are merely troublesome complainers who need to be silenced. The Exorcist is more sympathetic, but still he obeys the bishop. Despite his own celibacy and sobriety issues, MacAskill is the closest thing to a hero in Linden MacIntyre’s riveting new novel, The Bishop’s Man, a searing indictment of the Catholic church. MacAskill is sent to a rural parish in his native Cape Breton, which is also the author’s native land. There, while wrestling with his own demons, MacAskill encounters a troubled young man who appears to be the victim of a notorious priest. MacAskill is determined to help this man, regardless of the consequences for the church. His subsequent investigation takes him on a sordid and surprising path. Despite being a work of fiction, The Bishop’s Man has the ring of truth. Indeed, MacIntyre writes with great authority. The past few decades have seen a stream of stories about church sex abuse scandals in Canada, the U.S., and Ireland. We feel we know this issue, yet we learn so much more from MacIntyre’s very credible, complex characters. This novel is not perfect. At times, the plot is convoluted and the back-and-forth chronology gets rather tiresome. Generally, however, it is a well-crafted, brave, and painful examination of one of the most monstrous issues of our time. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


The Bishop’s Man centres on a sensitive topic — the sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests on the innocent children in their care. Father Duncan, the first person narrator, has been his bishop's dutiful enforcer, employed to check the excesses of priests and, crucially, to suppress the evidence. But as events veer out of control, he is forced into painful self-knowledge as family, community and friendship are torn apart under the strain of suspicion, obsession and guilt. A brave novel, conceived and written with impressive delicacy and understanding.”
— Statement by Jury, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, 2009

"A novel with the ring of truth.... The Bishop's Man is perhaps as close as we will get to eavesdropping on the private conversations we were never meant to hear among clergy or between clergy and 'complainers.'"
— The Gazette

"Engrossing...a serious examination of the theme [the sexual abuse of children] with the page-turning energy of a thriller."
— The Globe and Mail

Praise for Linden MacIntyre:

“MacIntyre isn’t just another face and larynx from television [but] an honest-to-God writer…”
Winnipeg Free Press

“MacIntyre is a fine writer.”
— Alistair MacLeod

From the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
73 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality viewed through fiction--The Bishop's Man Nov. 10 2009
The Bishop's Man is a wonderful book. It explores the many facets which contributed to and resulted from the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, through the story of a priest in Cape Breton.
The book follows Father Duncan McAskill on his journey from a difficult childhood through a career as a priest. He has been used by his bishop to help in supppressing scandals by being the messenger who has notified priests that they are to be moved. As he struggles with the realities of a Church hierarchy in denial, the loneliness and isolation of priests in small communities and the heartbreaking sense of betrayal and confusion in the faithful laity, he comes to a personal crisis in his own vocation. The characters are wonderfully drawn,and realistic. The book reads like a thriller and once I started it, I did not want to put it down.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book I've read in a long time. Nov. 9 2009
I enjoyed this book immensely. As a Catholic, I was somewhat shocked and certainly disturbed to read about the commonplace nature of the demons that haunt priests. The book drives home the fact that they are men - human beings - and with that, have all the frailties and weaknesses that each of us have. But mostly, I found this a truly fascinating glimpse into the private lives of priests, especially the lonliness and isolation that plague so many of them. By definition, their lives are on the ouside of the bustling family business they oversee in their parishes.

I was drawn to this book and couldn't wait to finish it. When I did, I missed the main characted and still think about him, and the book, often. I highly recommend The Bishop's Man.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
As soon as you read the sypnosis, you might groan in anticipation of some sordid journey into the loathsome depths of some scumbag religion's dark and dirty cellar. But you would be wrong. This is a book that tries, at least, to be fair about the Catholic church's overall legacy and function, realistically portraying the challenges that come up.

The protagonist is a clean-up man, designated by his bishop to sweep scandal under the rug. MacIntyre does a superb job of taking us inside the mind of this man, showing how his life of suppressing the human dignity of his victim in order to preserve the aura of institutional integrity has slowly drained him. At the same, as an intelligent, emotional being, he realizes this and is beginning to comprehend just how much of an impact his role in life is having. The book is about him slowly groping towards redemption.

The Globe and Mail reviewer put it well I think, when he/she said this book ultimately contains more contrition than redemption.

Also, in spite of the dark subject matter, this book uses suspense ably to compel the reader to turn the pages. So this is a literary book that actually has the potential to appeal to a fairly wide audience. About time, I'd say.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A complicated take on a complicated subject Dec 8 2009
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I work at a bookstore, and whenever I tell people what The Bishop's Man is about they most often scrunch up their nose and say: "Oh, that's too depressing. I don't want to read about that." Or some variation of this. I decided to give the book a try myself, to see if it really was the depressing subject that people assumed. Although the issue of abuse within the church is a depressing subject, the way that it is handled in MacIntyre's book is not in such a way that it weighs so heavily on you that you feel you can't breathe--quite the opposite actually: the book is meditative, philosophical, and deals with a dark subject in a way that doesn't block out all the light.

The first person perspective probably has a lot to do with this, and was a good choice on MacIntyre's part. Father Duncan is a great character, a flawed character (but all great characters are) with a unique and comforting voice that guides us through the darkest parts of this tale of abuse, suicide, lost faith, and moral dilemmas. It can even be (gasp) funny at times.

I was pulled deep into the mystery of this story, and MacIntyre really works the mystery level, keeping the reader in the dark mostly about pivotal events in the book until the last fifty pages or so when things are finally revealed. This kind of secret keeping could have been a cheap trick to build suspense but MacIntyre managed it well for the most part, and kept me turning the pages for 4 hours straight one night in order to finish the thing.

The style is one of a time line that jumps around a bit, but is less confusing than it can be frustrating in its jaggedness.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One Man's Journey Sept. 17 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Linden MacIntyre, an award winning author and journalist, has written a novel about a Cape Breton priest, Father Duncan MacAskill, and his life and work in a rural parish on the blessed island. The underlying tension comes from his reputation as the "Bishop's Man" who helps the church avoid scandal by moving troublesome clerics around, away, for treatment etc. But there is much more to this novel which is about a man struggling with himself, his calling, his hopes, memories and dreams. Clergy will recognize many of their own strains and stresses in this story. Lay people will find their own ministries challenged and confirmed. There are wonderful descriptions of the Cape Breton landscape and moods especially for those who live near the ocean. In spite of its dark themes, I ended reading this with a sense of hope and faith in the possibilities of redemption.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The title is a giveaway...but that's just the start.
This book will stand the test of time as a great Canadian novel. The underlying themes of faith and taboo are handled with sophistication and on occasion with humour. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael Bridger
4.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start....
I choose the 4 star rating because I found the book very slow to begin with...I almost didn't stick with it, but was glad I did. Read more
Published 5 months ago by s.frances
5.0 out of 5 stars Oops
Gave the right revue to the wrong book, oh well no one reads these anyway. Very good book, eye opening
Published 7 months ago by Edie Evans
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bishops Man
This is cleverly and tastefully written. Mr. MacIntyre says what is to be said in clear concise but very interesting style.
Published 17 months ago by oldgirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Captivating
Book 2 in the Cape Breton trilogy

Synopsis is mainly taken from Wikipedia and expended with my own thoughts

The story follows the life of a Catholic priest... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Toni Osborne
1.0 out of 5 stars Cryptic crap
Everytime I periodically decide to gamble on reading "Prize Winning Canadian Literature" I am totally puzzled as to what planet these people (the writers, the prize panels and the... Read more
Published on May 27 2012 by K. Yackimec
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Read
The Bishop's Man is a shocking and disturbing read of one of the most despicable acts in the Catholic Church's history and although it seems like a heavy read, it wasn't as... Read more
Published on Dec 21 2011 by Lydia - Novel Escapes
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book
Reading the words of Linden MacIntyre I was struck by the memories I had of Cape Breton story tellers. His story flowed. It was a book that I had dificulty putting down. Read more
Published on April 1 2011 by Mj Perry
5.0 out of 5 stars A quiet masterpiece
This novel won the Canadian Giller prize and at the time it was considered a surprise. I didn't expect to like this novel, but I did, very much. I became totally engrossed in it. Read more
Published on Feb. 20 2011 by Sandra Gulland
5.0 out of 5 stars Elegant and full of nuance
To read The Bishop's Man, by Linden MacIntyre, is to come to an understanding about nuance, patience and the sometimes ambiguity of knowledge. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2011 by Lorina Stephens
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