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Bethany House / 2008 / Paperback
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Once he had performed in his family's gospel band, but now most of his loved ones have passed on. Still known as Danny Gospel, he is living a sedate, quiet life as a postman in a small Iowa town. Soon his tranquil existence is broken open by, a dream, a vision, a sign? a beautiful woman he is sure is his "beloved."
Logic and sense tucked safely out of harms way, Danny launches a quest to find his true love. Always good-natured, he is a hero on a journey-dreaming impossible dreams and, no matter how much he must suffer, pursuing romance and heavenly glory. But is his quest really for a vision of beauty, or is it a journey through pains too deep to name and emotions too raw to feel?
With a song in his soul but little sense in his head, the title character of David Atheys novel, Danny Gospel, sets out on a journey through Iowa, Palm Beach, and his own past, looking for the woman in white who kissed him in the night. Guided by God, his heart, and the occasional mosquito, Danny encounters a diverse cast of friends and strangers, through whom he explores the events that have shaped him. Eventually, he finds the future that is calling him.
Danny, a mentally-challenged young mail carrier in Iowa, has suffered much in his life, from the loss of most of his family to the betrayal of his fiancée. However, through it all he has maintained a strong and sometimes strange faith in God. Narrating the book, Danny tells a story that is at times touching and poignant and other times bizarre and funny.
Atheys debut novel shows his considerable skill at characterization. Everyone in the story has his or her own faults and quirks, and, though no one is perfect, each character is interesting and realistic. Even the secondary characters have complex emotions and motives that show through the writing rather than having to be spelled out by the author.
The novel jumps back and forth in time and may be tricky to follow at first. This isnt a mistake on the authors part, but symbolizes Dannys troubled mind and the associations he makes between events. Through flashbacks, the reader vicariously experiences the occurrences that have shaped the character.
Although the novel often focuses on the tragedies that have befallen Danny and those people around him, the tone is still lighthearted enough to avoid being depressing. The main characters unique perspectives provide humor to the story, and his naiveté leads him into situations that the reader cant help but chuckle. Despite his social and intellectual shortcomings, Danny strives to honor God through his words and deeds, much like Paul told us to do in 1 Corinthians 10:31: So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
David Atheys writing sometimes falls a bit short, as he tries to make his style fit Danny Gospels odd personality, but these shortcomings do not detract from the novel as a whole. The prose is rhythmic and smooth and does not jar the reader from the story. Danny Gospel will be an encouraging book for those who understand that our world is full of sin and suffering, but who continue to hope nonetheless.
Overall, the book has a very realistic feel. Humor and sorrow go hand in hand, contrasting and complementing each other. In the end, not everything has a perfectly-resolved storybook finish, but the most important issues are tied up in a conclusion that is, if not exactly happy, at least satisfying. -- Nathan Biberdorf, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
This unusual faith-based novel explores pain and redemption through the eyes of Daniel David McGillicuddy (or Danny Gospel as he is known), a mentally disturbed Iowa mail carrier with a cross-shaped scar on his chest. All but his older brother in the singing Gospel Family have died, and when not delivering the mail, Danny wanders farm fields or meanders through his memory. Athey portrays much of Dannys current life as a long hallucination, punctuated with lucidity and remembrances of a tragic but loving Christian childhood. As he slips into deep troublea barroom brawl, a job loss, a faith healing that backfiresDanny must flee his Iowa home where all the stories make sense. His friend Grease, a mechanic with a penchant for strip clubs, helps Danny escape in a pink Cadillac to Palm Beach, Fla., where he takes up with a ragtag group in a condemned building, composes music and writes his memoirs. Then suddenly, Danny returns to Iowa for a family event, picking up a group of eggnog-sipping old ladies on the way. As Alice in Wonderland would say, curiouser and curiouser. Although Athey, an English professor at Palm Beach Atlantic College, is an imaginative writer, confused readers may be left scratching their heads. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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Author: David Athey
Located in: Palm Beach, FL & Duluth, MN
Submitted: August 21, 2008
Tell us a little about yourself. When I was 12, I closed my eyes and strode into my bedroom closet, hoping to end up in Narnia. I ended up seeing stars in Minnesota. I continue to leap blindly into the realms of fiction. DANNY GOSPEL was an 18-year bashing against the wall, revision after revision. Like a magic wardrobe to Narnia set in Iowa, there are flannel shirts and cornfields on the surface of DANNY GOSPEL, and crowns of thorns and jewels in the depths of the "interior castle".
What was your motivation behind this project? At first, I just wanted to hurry up and write a novel, any novel, but as the years revised by, the character of Danny Gospel began to grow in wisdom, grace and as a fool for Christ; and it became clear to me that I might be writing something important.
What do you hope folks will gain from this project? I hope folks fall in love with Danny and realize that their own lives, filled with many sorrows, are like those old hymns and spirituals with rugged crosses that eventually turn to blessings.
How were you personally impacted by working on this project? I've become more convinced that what makes a novel "Christian" (what O'Connor talked about in Mystery and Manners) is the infusion of uncontrollable, mysterious Grace (mixed with a strong work ethic).
Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists? These give me good shivers... The Bible, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesteron, Van Gogh, Chagall, Monet, Rublev, Dostoevski, Cervantes, Flannery O'Connor, Walker Percy, Annie Dillard, Francis of Assisi, Rome, Florence, Iowa, Minnesota, Notre Dame (cathedral, not football), Hemingway, Wendell Berry, Hymns, Spirituals, Gregorian chant, Beethoven, Bach, Mozart...
Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know: DANNY GOSPEL is the perfect gift for most occasions.
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