(Penguin Random House, 2018)
English translation by John Cullen
“With storytelling finesse, Antonio Monda has written a compact and forceful book that might be a morbid erotic tale out of Boccaccio, exposing the tormented lust of the clergy.”
A Catholic priest struggles with memories of an illicit romance in 1970s New York in this powerfully intimate novel of faith and doubt, guilt and love.
New York in the late 70s: fiscal crisis, rising crime, the great blackout of ’77–the city seemed to be on an irreversible decline that was battering its very soul. And, to put it mildly, sin was everywhere. Against this backdrop we meet Abram Singer, a Catholic priest with an unusual name and a very dark secret. Born to an absentee Jewish father and a devout Irish mother, Abram always felt like an outsider, someone standing between two worlds. Raised Catholic, he found himself drawn to the meaningful structure of the seminary and became a Manhattan parish priest. Guided by a genuine faith in God, Abram’s sincerest wish is to do His work.
But Abram is not without his human failings, primary of which is lust. Despite his vow of chastity, he is irresistibly attracted to women and has a long-standing relationship with a young woman named Lisa, whom he loves passionately. Their romance, Abram feels, bears the hallmarks of all of his gravest weaknesses–doubt, hypocrisy, and an inability to renounce his own sin. These misgivings threaten to overwhelm him when a stranger calls Abram at the parish threatening to expose his liaison, forcing him to decide whether the risks of continuing with Lisa have become simply too great.
Told entirely in Abram’s straightforward, self-aware voice, Unworthy is both a riveting, morally complex narrative about the nature of faith, loyalty, and identity, and a gritty period piece about a man trying to make his way in one of America’s greatest cities.