4 out of 4 stars
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Senator Joe Jay went through a big scandal and had to resign. Joe Jay is hospitalized and near death. John Kelly, an award-winning reporter was given the task to write about Joe Jay. In his mind, Joe was a "has-been", and his story didn’t have much to offer. However, upon entering the hospital room he saw an old nun in a black habit, kneeling on the floor, and praying to the rosary. His Irish intuition told him that there was more merit in the story than he anticipated.
“Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” The Narrow Gates by John Servant expresses this message in the most impactful and emotionally engaging way. For most of the story, my feelings fluctuated from sadness to complete hopelessness. Towards the end, the cold, dark clouds of my feelings parted and brought in warm sunshine and satisfaction.
Sister Francis' character is almost angel-like. She questions herself if she had somehow failed Joe as a teacher? This dilemma is quite valid. If a person does wrong, who is to blame? Is it only that person or do parents and teachers also share the blame? Additionally, she is the only one standing beside Joe during the scandal. She was also the one who guided Joe through the narrow gates. So who is the real saint – Joe who transforms and helps people, or Sister Francis who taught him how to be a better person.
There were some conversations between Sister Francis and John – which at times appeared preachy. These learnings were, however, amply demonstrated and reinforced through the life story of Joe.
I will rate this book a 4 out of 4 stars. It is a beautifully weaved story. It is short, only 124 pages, yet brought out a powerful message of atonement. Moreover, it was a clean read. The book did not feature any explicit sexual or offensive language. There were a few mentions of romantic interest and death, and these enriched the story.
I would encourage young adults to read this book. Using the medium of the story, the author has discussed the consequences of being too ambitious, and yet how every mistake can be forgiven if we start walking on the right path. It is an inspirational Christian and catholic contemporary literary fiction. I feel people inclined towards religion, especially Christianity, would deeply connect with the book.
The Narrow Gate
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