on 19 June 1999
O'brien manages to write a book unlike any other I have ever read. Fueled by a profound faith in orthodoxy, he paints the modern culture wars in a blazing light. I began hesitantly, afraid that it was another consrvative with a chip on his shoulder, but O'brien is far from limited in his faith; rather, his characters pulsate with the same love for beauty as dostoevski's Brothers, with that wry wit of Chesterton's most developed characters, and with the relentless faith of so many martyrs. His vision of our times may seem incredible, but what gives the novel life and voice is that it is so absolutely tied to reality; the all-encompassing tolerance of the president disguising a distinctly intolerant and damning view of the Church, the daggers in so many men's eyes, the dismissal of natural law in favor of a doctored humanism, the violence of the anti-population movement-- all resound as terribly telling signs of our times. Aside from the remarkable sense of telos and faith, O'brien's work is astoundingly literary, with textured hints at Tolkien, Chesterton, Dante, Dickens, St. John of the Cross, Dostoevski, and even Teilhard de Chardin. It is a wonderful novel.
on 18 November 2002
I did not like the look of this book. I am prejudiced about North American apocalyptic literature - religiosly and historically illiterate nonsense usually. And I didn`t like the dialogue as I skimmed read the first few pages [actually I still don`t like a lot of the dialogue]. But the cover review from Stratford Caldecot and the fact that it camre from Ignatius won me over.
This is one of the most extraordinbary books written in recent decades. As Lewis said of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, this is lightning from a clear sky. Partly Dostoyevsky, partly Williams or Lewis, imagine if you can a novel written by von Balthasar or Adrienne von Speyer. This in a way - though too difficult for most children - is the Catholic reply to Philip Pullman`s "war in Heaven" in HIS DARK MATERIALS. I want everyone I know to read this book.
on 21 April 1999
An exemplary novel of living the Catholic Faith with an overhanging chill of apocalypse, Father Elijah inspires a deepening of faith. This novel, while not the best written literature, provokes a multitude of thoughful questions. It asks the reader to consider God's ways, to delve one's self into spiritual warfare, to return to a more conservative Catholic viewpoint (however, conservative and liberal are not good words when dealing with faith), and to examine our lives "For you know not the moment" of his return. The novel makes the human-spiritual struggle more real. HIs writing style is unique, in that the words take on symbolic and literal emaning simultaneously. His satirical comments and his devout faith makes the novel more enjoyable. This novel has increased my faith and has encouraged me to pursue my own goals in writing. I recommend this book highly!
on 30 May 1999
I started to read this book during a retreat, and I simply could not put it down. The author not only tells a good story, but brings out the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ in the person of Holy Mother Church. While this book is fiction, there is an element of truth that tells me that what he decribes could happen in the near future. I certainly want to read more of Mr. O'Brien's other works. Deacon John T. Cretaro
on 21 August 1997
Because of its true-to-life characters and relevance to the state of the world today, "Fr. Elijah" was hard to put down. My only disappointment was that when the book was over, the story wasn't. The book, however, is complete and can be read with no prior knowledge of the author and his works.
While the term "apocalyptic" can properly be applied to this book and its themes, it's not at all a "scary" book, one meant to frighten, like so many "end of the world" books. This book made me think, made me look around and look within. If you've read any "apocalyptic" literature, including Biblical texts, you'll find "Fr. Elijah" much easier going, much closer to the real world, while still remaining challenging and accessible. I can't wait to read more by Michael O'Brien.
on 27 May 1999
In Father Elijah, Michael O'Brien has reinstated my faith in Christian literature. A well-paced, referenced, and cultured yarn setting the stage of history's last days, and remaining within the context of the Biblical testaments, Old and New.
O'Brien's Catholic orientation should not offend other beliefs, but instead humbly purports the importance of remaining true. Truth is not only worthy of making a stand, but we separate ourselves from it if we don't.
His ability to portray real Virtue is refreshingly counter-cultural to our Western lifestyle today.
A wonderful story of the Day, of Love, of Adventure and Journey. Although one might find reason to edit or critique a select character or tangent, Father Elijah contains literary greatness that provokes and inspires. Again, my faith is renewed!
on 27 March 1997
A splendid book, superbly written, with moments that are truly transcendant in the best tradition of the novel. Before continuing, it would be good to note its single flaw and that is that after reading 600 pages the resolution is incomplete--obviously indicating some manner of sequel. But, in the larger scheme of this story, the flaw (believe it or not) turns out to be trivial.
This story is an exploration both of the Church at a crossroads, and of the souls of individuals--both extraordinary and ordinary. What is most remarkable is that every character in the book is real, alive, and breathing. This isn't packed with the usual panoply of stereotypes who serve to "swell the progress of a scene." Each person is a person.
Michael O'Brien's message in this book is ultimately (as in all good apocalypses) one of hope. Redemption is not only for the perfect. Even in the face of great evil and great menace, ordinary people are capable of tremendous and occassionally saving love. Ordinary people are capable of showing us the way to God.
This book is a meditation and a reflection on Salvation--its promise and its fulfillment. Michael O'Brien has given Christians something they have longed for since the death of C.S. Lewis--Christian Fiction that is interesting, relevant, and real, Christian Fiction that at once proclaims the Christian message, and tells a story of fallible humans and ordinary life.
This is a book that should not be missed under any circumstances. Whether you are Christian or not, the wonderful flow of story telling is reminiscent of novels of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth century. Novels in which there is a story and room to breath and reflect. If Michael O'Brien fulfills the promise of this book, he will be a writer to watch carefully.
on 26 August 1996
Subtle and frequently beautiful, "Father Elijah" is a stirring and, at times, haunting apocalytic meditation, two thousand years after the birth of Christ, on the coming of the millenium and the end of time. The protagonist, Father Elijah, a convert from Judaism and a man once powerful in Israel, is summoned to Rome by the Holy Father from Mount Carmel, where, for twenty years, he has been "buried in the dark night of Carmel" as a cloistered Carmelite monk. Twenty-nine centuries after the emergence of his namesake, the greatest Old Testament prophet, Father Elijah soon finds himself contending with the president of the Europarliament, a man the pope believes to be the Antichrist. Through a series of events rich with intrigue, treachery, adventure, and profound spiritual turmoil, Elijah strives, evoking the struggles of his namesake nearly three mellenia before, to convert the ruler whose hegemony, though thickly coated in the vernacular of humanism, threatens the human race.
A master of verisimilitude, Michael O'Brien's story is frequently affecting. He effortlessly weaves the salient threads of thirty centuries of Judeao-Christian messianic tradition with quotidian events unmistakably approximating those of our own day. From his careful renderings of the pope and other senior officials of the Roman Curia, to the terror of traffic in Rome, to the struggles between the orthodox and modern forces within the Universal Church at even the lowest level, to reemergence of a powerful urge on the European continent for untiy under a single superstructure, O'Brien manages to convincingly blend the headlines of contemporary life with spiritual struggles seemingly hidden from public view, which signal the second coming. Given the powerful portrayal of certain of his characters (the stigmatic monk Don Matteo comes to mind), one often wonders whether they are fully figments of his imagination or whether O'Brien, a Catholic artist and novelist, has experienced the company of these uncommon characters.
Though subtitled "An Apocalypse," the novel is not animated by garrish spectral imagery that one might find in science fiction or in horror books or movies. While there are specters in "Father Elijah," they are of a subtler, and thus more believeable, sort -- not so much Halloween monsters, with horns and teeth dripping with blood, as menaces cloaked in nature, the iron fist in the velvet glove. And though an adventure, a journey, one full of startling and disturbing developments, "Father Elijah" does not gallop at the pace of a techno-thriller. It's pacing is relaxed, allowing the reader to luxuriate in the imagery and struggles O'Brien draws. At a time when the best-seller lists are filled with New Age novels about various "prophecies" and midnight encounters between good and evil, a reader's time would be more profitably and enjoyably spent with the more authentic "Father Elijah."
on 3 May 1997
This is at last a serious,well written book that ranks right up there with the best literature. It contains well delineated characters and it makes a lot of commentary on our society today with a sense of urgency. This is without question the most refreshing book I have come across in the 90's. I understand the book's appeal might not be so great for people who don't have a Catholic background, but this is must read for anyone who doesn't understand what is wrong with our modern world. It is also scary reading as anyone who is a serious thinker has to wonder how far are we from the events described in this book.
on 7 July 1998
A very good Catholic novel. At its best, reminded me of Dostoyevsky. A monk, a former Jew who escaped from the holocaust, is given the commission from the pope to witness to the man who is on his way to become the anti-Christ, seeking the salvation of his soul. Some spy-novel kind of intrigue and, sometimes, fast-paced action. But the dialogues are profound, devout, inspiring, and marvelously written. In some ways like a Roman Catholic Frank Peretti, but written with the skill of a true artist and a the soul of a pious mystic.