All Press Releases for July 18, 2013

You Always Criticize the One You Love: Critical Mass, a Novel about Living with the Catholic Church

Kathleen M. Henry's debut novel, Critical Mass, looks critically at the Catholic Church, its beliefs, and its scandals. Both ironic and tragic, it offers a glimpse into the church's past and present.

    BOSTON, MA, July 18, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate Critical Mass, Kathleen M. Henry's controversial new novel about spirituality and the Catholic Church. But to feel the full wallop--and walloping her writing is--it helps to start on the same page as Ms. Henry who, as a female priest (community ordained), is already a heretic in the eyes of Rome. "Read no further," advises Henry in her author's note, "if a pious and orthodox piece on the Mass is what you think this is. If you are one of the 'gentle, angry people,' however, read on."

"I always wanted to write a story in which parts of the Mass were intertwined with stories of people's lives," says Henry of her novel's structure, which follows a Mass from beginning to end. Henry, who attended parochial school through graduate school, spins a compelling tale, artfully interweaving the stories of four Catholic women over a ninety-year span.

Through the lives of Molly Donoghue (circa 1910), Anne O'Brien (1955), Christine Roy (1988) and MJ O'Brien (2000), Henry paints a moving cultural history of women and the church throughout the twentieth century. It would be a mistake, however to dismiss Critical Mass as a woman's story. Ms. Henry's dyspepsia toward the church's cultural biases and traditions reverberates in the stilted lives of the men in the story, too. "One's spirituality and relationship with God," Henry believes, "rarely survives being institutionalized."

The local parish in which these textured lives unfold is somewhere near Boston. A grand cathedral with a massive door atop a narrow staircase makes the very act of entering a perilous exercise in commitment. "You had to be thrown off balance to get into this place," Henry writes.

Molly Donoghue's life is already unbalanced enough. Raped and exiled at fifteen from her native Ireland, she arrives in turn-of-the-century America, pregnant and alone, with only her faith (and guilt) to support her.

Forty years later, from the same 8th-row pew, Anne O'Brien, a Father Knows Best housewife, struggles with her feelings for Father Michael John, whose child she carries. A generation later, Christine Roy and her gay lover, MJ, try to carve out a life of service and humility in a church that doesn't know what to do with them. Henry writes movingly about the warping of lives under the gravity of tradition. There's a palpable sadness imbued in the pages, of muted potential, destinies unfulfilled. The only salvation--literally, as Henry sees it--is to love others and serve God.

Critical Mass, in 109 engagingly written pages, provokes a level of reflection essential to a serious discussion of contemporary religion. Its provocativeness is softened by a heartfelt yearning for authenticity, making this debut novel exquisitely bitter sweet.

"A delicate work of fiction. . . . thought-provoking. . . . The book's target audience is made up of former Catholics and baby boomers, but any reader that picks up this slim volume will be touched by the stories of the characters within. . . . A must read for believers and non-believers alike.
--Jack Gardner, Edge

Kathleen M. Henry attended parochial school through graduate school and is a community ordained priest. She and her spouse of four decades share homes in Boston and Truro, Massachusetts.

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Media contact: Victor Gulotta
Gulotta Communications, Inc.

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