It’s a good bet that people always want to know the future to bolster their sense of certainty, especially in an uncertain world. Fortune-tellers, seers, and prophets — in the non-Biblical sense — have always been among our favorites.
As Catholics, however, we do know the ultimate future because eternal life awaits those of us who believe and do God’s will, and that is the definition of certainty. Aside from death and taxes, however, here’s one more thing that is certain in this life: Sherry Boas’s new novel, “Wing Tip,” will be a classic of Catholic literature.
It’s not only that Boas has interesting characters — which she does —or even plot twists that keep a reader interested — which she also does — but it’s that this novel is very much like reading all of Catholic Church teaching in a real-world setting. Characters stand for that teaching by the way they live their lives, despite all failings, and among events that mirror the very real issues embroiling Catholics and other Christians today. The genius of this novel is that the teaching and issues will suddenly jump out because of an action of one of the characters.
The main character is Fr. Dante DeLuz, a diocesan priest, and always a good choice for a Catholic novel; but don’t let the priest’s everyman name escape your notice — Dante, of Inferno fame, and DeLuz, or, “Of Light.” Allegories abound.
Fr. Dante is a compassionate and charitable person, taking his vows and beliefs seriously and using almost every waking moment to evangelize. He even faces a moment of political-correctness, which he properly diverts and turns into evangelization, a skill we all could use in our everyday lives.
One day, after his mother, Elina, passes, his fellow priest hands him a note from her written days before her death, a kind of deathbed confession that she could not reveal to Fr. Dante prior. The letter details the secrets of her youth, particularly that she was the only heir to a family fortune worth some $13 billion and that she gave it all up for love.
In this, she mirrors other saints born into nobility or wealth: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Dominic de Guzman, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Albert de Groot (the Great), and St. Catherine of Siena. Their love was for God and Elina’s was for a gentle God-fearing man named Mateo, who saved her. Fr. Dante thought Mateo was his own father, but the letter reveals the second startling secret: Mateo was not Dante’s biological father. Instead, Fr. Dante’s father was a man who became as rich as Elina’s own family.
Armed with this information, Fr. Dante desperately seeks out the man mentioned in the letter. He finds him and, through a great deal of persistence and compassion, makes his way through the levels of secretaries and administrative assistants to finally meet him.
Fr. Dante tells the story of his mother and soon the man realizes that he might be Fr. Dante’s father. Naturally, however, the man is skeptical and cynical — what person who serves mammon as his only master wouldn’t be — but when he is diagnosed with a genetic heart condition, he has the DNA test done confirming his relationship to Fr. Dante and tells him about the heart problem.
The main flow of the story and all the back stories, sub stories, sideline stories, and stories in passing, is the movement from ignorance to enlightenment as Fr. Dante wins some of his battles and loses a few. His real goal becomes the lifting of his father from the depths of secular ignorance to the heights of salvation.
Loss highlights the twists and turns of the story, loss of friends, family, and other loved-ones who point us ever toward the cross, the passion, and redemption in Christ. Instead of the tone being depressing or negative, the tone is triumphant, bolstered by Catholic teaching that creates a unified worldview and a way of life filled with hope that takes us thoroughly beyond the mundane.
The title, not about doves as we might expect, refers to the shoe lost by Mateo and found by Elina, ala reverse Cinderella. Instead of a princess with a fairy godmother, however, we have faithful Catholics who find salvation as the fact of their lives.
Magnificent read, highly recommended.
Robert Curtis, a life-professed Lay Dominican, is the author of 17 books, holds a master’s in creative writing, teaches composition at the University of Phoenix and creative writing at Rio Salado College.