I read the September 2011 Itineris Press publication, Angel by author Laura Lee in nearly one sitting Saturday night. It was my Saturday to work but it was oh so slow. Because it was slow, I was sent home 1.5 hours early. I rushed home to read the last 9 pages of this 188 page wonder.
Laura Lee has been writing for a long time; primarily in the non-fiction arena. It would appear that Angel is her first work of novel length fiction. Now, I italicized the word “fiction” on purpose. The book is as much about what very often feel to be palpably real attempts to reconcile a Christian world view with homosexuality as it is about the relationship that blooms between our two protagonists in this story. Our lead characters are Paul the 46 year old widower pastor of a church and Ian, the 24ish semi-recovering alcoholic who one day invades Paul’s domain while looking for the AA meeting taking place at the church and who remains in his thoughts thereafter.
Paul is a straight-laced, so to speak, minister who really feels his calling. He’s doing exactly what he loves. Never a social being, he relied on his former wife – six years lost from cancer – to be his guide when it came to the more social needs of his congregation. With Ian on the scene, a man who originally appeared to him to be an angel, Paul changes and he opens his eyes to a very new perspective. He regains his fire and inspires the members of his church. As he helps and mentors Ian, he learns from him and he also falls for him and Ian for Paul. A romance ensues that challenges Paul’s beliefs and put him at odds with the more conservative teachings of the church he loves so much.
If ever there was a story about falling in love with a person and not with a gender, this is it. Paul is no more gay or even bisexual in this book than Ian is straight. Ian knew he was gay at a young age. Paul, before meeting Ian, never desired another man in any way. Ian’s struggle in the story is to find a place with a man who would hide his love because of his vocation where Paul’s is to reconcile his desire to be a servant of God with the fact that he is in love with another man and that, that very relationship is a subject of so much contention within his own church (who accept gay and lesbian congregants but not leaders) and within Christianity. It’s a well crafted story that rings true in our current times.
There are other thought provoking themes here as well including a first chapter and an intro to nearly every subsequent chapter that draw parallels between mountains and closeness to God (not specific of any one religion, per se). If you’re the follower of any sort of teachings that there is a “higher power” in the universe, you’ll likely find these chapter lead ins to be quite interesting.
This is available in paperback and for the Kindle.