Two Statues, by Brian Kennelly is a beautiful novel about the lives of men who find meaning in their suffering through a strange series of religious experiences. The story involves various elaborate suspense-filled plots of two sets of characters: two priests teaching at a college in Worcester, Massachusetts, and two men retired on an island off the coast of South Carolina.
The charming descriptions of the coastal town settings and a peaceful South Carolina beach, as well as the intricate resolution of the main plot point, reveals the beauty and power of God, whose Providence guides the lives of men and gives meaning to their suffering.
The story conveys a rich religious content through many simple and real life conversations between the protagonists, as well as the music of a violin played at sunrise on the beach. The well-developed characters and their actions evoke the compassion of the reader, who thus enters into the tension between suffering and Providence.
Fr. Peter, a young priest, battles with unresolved pain from early childhood abuse by an adopted father who was an alcoholic. Yet, he recalls the love of nuns who had previously raised him until the age of ten at an orphanage. In his youth, he falls into a life of addiction to drugs before discovering his purpose in life and returning to God.
Walt, a Catholic and retired widower, prays every day to God for a son he abandoned when his wife died shortly after delivery. At sunrise, he speaks to his deceased wife Olivia, while playing the violin on the beach.
These two lives, riddled with deep sorrow and frustration, need to find healing and reconciliation. Fr. Paul, another young priest, and Buck, a Protestant and single retired man, each help their respective friends to come to grips with God’s forgiveness for their past sins and discover a deeper sense of meaning for their lives.
But all this is only possible through grace. In words of the famous novel, Diary of a Country Priest, “all is grace.” God’s Providence at work through a strange event involving two statues of the Virgin Mary leads Fr. Peter and Walt to meet and experience God’s mercy.
The reader would have benefited from some additional narrative on the lives of the priests, offering insights into their thought processes, and showing them at prayer. Even more, the author might have presented the message of the Mother of God in a slightly more maternal and spiritual manner.
The reader wishes the denouement to have been prolonged a little further, yet the novel still gives him or her a powerful sense of God’s grace restoring a priest to his calling. In all this, a little orphan girl from Guatemala shows us how charity unveils God’s mercy and how God always responds to prayer, here in the form of the sounds of a violin.
Two Statues is an inspiring tale of love and hope.
Brian is now writing a novel on the life of Bl. Giorgio Frassati, which will attempt to capture the same Providence at work in the lives of imperfect men and women.