Friday, December 24, 2010

Holy Animals Synopsis

            Holy Animals is the journey of The Reverend Hazard Flowers from his tormented beginnings as the failed child prodigy of Jesse Flowers, the head golf pro at the Portland Country Club, to his prophetic stand as the controversial Gay Moses of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Hazard’s odyssey takes him from his father’s abusive tutelage in golf to service in the United States Navy, and divinity training at the Virginia Theological Seminary.  His marriage to the Bishop of Virginia’s only daughter catapults him to the position of Rector at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a bright future of ecclesiastical preferment.

            But Hazard’s path of favoritism and family connections becomes a tortured and comical stumble through church controversy and personal difficulties, including infertility and a failing marriage.  The election of The Reverend V. Gene Robinson draws the depressed parson into the Southern spotlight as the defender of gays and lesbians.  Hazard takes this stand against the wishes of his father-in-law, a Southern moderate with eyes on national leadership of the Episcopal Church.  Hazard’s two most controversial sermons are included in the novel, and his best work as a priest of the church initiates his precipitous downfall.  Hazard loses everything that he worked so hard to achieve.  His final scene with his father-in-law is a dramatic showdown involving a golf putter (belonging to Sam Snead), destruction of church property, and Hazard’s own unedited version of Southern history.

            Hazard stands with the outcast and finds himself in Dante’s deepest bunker, his ball lost in the deep woods.  As the Prologue and Book I chart the rise and fall of the Southern rector with ambitions to be a prince of the church, Book II, “The Eighteen Holes of the Garden Regained,” reclaims and restores Hazard Flowers the human being.  After his second sermon, Hazard is sent to the penalty box for church prophets at the Holy Cross monastery in New York.  In the last act of the novel, Bluevine St. Peter, a feminist doctoral student and part-time stripper, leads the wounded parson out of Dante’s woods to the rising sun of paradise.  Hazard’s own Beatrice is Sophie Zimmerman-Gold, an editorial assistant who is planning to leave the world of publishing.  Holy Animals is, in the end, an intellectual’s love story that challenges everything Hazard, and Sophie, once knew to be true.  Nick Geary, a talented boxer and an army chaplain who served several tours in Bosnia, and Brother Arnold Pethweather, a monk at Holy Cross, join the unlikely cast of characters in the climax of the novel.  The dramatic ending is a secular collision of faith healing (Hazard’s sterility), romance (Hazard and Sophie, Bluevine and Arnold), and strange Christian, and Jewish, fellowship at the monastic setting of Holy Cross.  The last chapter is the first ultrasound appointment for Hazard and Sophie. 

The novel is 322 pages long with 73,959 words. 

No comments:

Post a Comment