Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9840984-2-2
Kindle ISBN: 0-094-094-2-9
Available on Amazon
The Chains that Bind.
This novel encompasses the life of a Roman Catholic woman, born in Ireland, desiring to enter the convent and whose only ambition is to see God, but instead as a teenager is sent by her father to the U.S. to help his brother in his store. She is treated like slave labor, but is introduced to a good Irish Catholic man, who is seeking an Irish Catholic wife, and in order free herself from the store, she marries Sean Flanagan. Sean Flanagan has been raised by a father as hard as nails so Sean has no understanding of sharing a life and obviously a virgin, introduces his wife Mary, to the marital bed with no finesse nor love. But Mary is not disappointed for she has been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe that sex is only for procreation and she is to be subservient to her husband’s desires except during menstrual times and pregnancy. She first has a son, Sean Jr., and then a daughter, Kathleen, after which medically she should have no more children. Consequently, no more sex, which Sean Sr. accepts, but it changes him. In time Sean Sr. is killed in an accident; her son, Sean Jr., suffers injury in the Viet Nam war and returns home a quadriplegic. After a time he is released from the VA hospital to return home into Mary’s care. Her daughter Kathleen loses a baby, can have no more children and her husband, John, abandons her.
In every moment of Mary’s life, she relies on God and her faith to see her through, which gives her a martyr’s strength that undermines her own resilience. She instills this sense of martyrdom into her son, Sean, and also into Kathleen, who wants to remarry, and perhaps adopt a child, but Mary lays it heavy on her that she is married for life and as a result Kathleen joins a Catholic hospice, lives there and she settles for that as her life.
Eventually Sean Jr. decides to enter a VA hospital for rehabilitation to teach him to utilize what little independent faculties he has and there he finds happiness with one of the female helpers there. At this time, Mary is wallowing in self-pity because of how life has imprisoned her in nothing but disappointment. As the story says, “Mary wore a hair shirt of the Church.”
Eventually Mary decides to educate herself, which opens a whole new world to her, apart from the Church. She is intelligent and eventually gives up going to Mass and enters a Presbyterian Church with a female minister who answers Mary’s question with the principles of God’s love and Christ’s love. Through the balance of the story, Mary is offered love, life, new opportunities, but falls back into her martyrdom when a member of her family suffers an event, for which Mary is not responsible. The story has a rather surprising ending if the reader is expecting the usual happy one, but in real life, this could very well occur to one like Mary with such a background.
The author does a nice job of character building and for a male, certainly understands the nature of females. There were a couple of aspects that puzzled me. If Sean Jr. was in the Vietnam War, and at the youngest he would have been was 18 and that war ended in 1973, which would have put him in 2011 at age 56 and Mary about 74 now and the story is written in the present tense, it would be nice if somewhere in the tale there is a year designated so the reader can visualize Mary’s age as she faces her challenges. I enjoyed this story and would recommend it for those readers who enjoy character studies more than action tales.