By: Aaron Roe
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: April 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: June 18, 2021
A youth becomes a man through a perilous, painful search for ultimate truths in this dynamic debut offering by author Aaron Roe.
Damian Kurt was raised by a strict Catholic mother and a strong, forbearing father whose sudden death has left a hole in the teen’s life. His home-schooling, domineering mother is bent on impelling him to acknowledge his destiny to become a priest. But Damian knows that his private actions, mainly his youthful, almost uncontrollable lust, could or should keep him from that vocation.
An accident while working out at the gym may be a blessing in disguise for Damian, slowing him down and giving him time for journaling, contemplation, and more visits to the confessional. He splits with his mom, going to live with his gym teacher for a while, but finally, Mt. Angelus beckons and he joins the ranks of young seminarians overseen by priests who at times seem diligent, at times negligent and dismissive, and at least once, rather creepy. Damian feels comfort in his priestly garb and has time for further introspection, attempting to write his father’s biography. His efforts are aided by Professor Harold House, whose class, Spiritual Autobiography, feeds perfectly into Damian’s wish to follow in the footsteps of the great saints – including, he believes, his own dad. Meeting Harold’s son Eden, who loves to gaze at and study the stars, is further inspiration. But when something great is lost in Damian’s conflicted young life, something greater will be gained, to put him on the path to a brighter future.
Roe writes with notable skill, moving the reader quickly but rationally from scene to scene. We see Damian’s struggling with his adolescent urges, while diligently making lists of the steps he must take to spiritual self-improvement. He is a reader as well as a writer, and his inner explorations, as deftly drawn by Roe, may be his saving grace. Roe is comfortable with dialog and narrative alike; this is an intelligent book about a teenage boy’s search for piety, but it is not a pious book, so young adult readers can easily identify with Damian and appreciate his conflicted viewpoint. The book leads steadily to a startling and gratifying conclusion that could, one feels, beg a sequel, with a youthful, likeable and believable protagonist with much more to accomplish.
Quill says: Issues of piety, priesthood and true integrity provide the undercurrent in Aaron Roe’s action-filled, contemporary and credible saga of one tormented teen’s quest for life’s meaning.
For more information on Saints and Martyrs, please visit the publisher's website at: atmospherepress.com