REVIEW: The Father’s Tale by Michael D. O’Brien

A rapid book recommendation.

I am reading the new novel by Michael O’Brien, author the Father Elijah (which if you haven’t read, get it and read it and then read his trilogy which connects back into it) and many others.  A Cry of Stone was glorious, as was Island of the World.

His new book, and I am about a third through it, is called A Father’s Tale. Kindle HERE.  UK HERE.

It is the story of a man finding himself and God as he searches for his son who has been seduced into a new age cult.  The tale is an odyssey and an anabasis, a prodigal son account with twists.  There are tendrils into English poets such as Eliot and Hopkins and Wordsworth as well as a great deal of inspiration from Russian authors.

O’Brien writes with a strong undertone of mysticism.  His works are deeply Catholic, in the sense that he writes from a Catholic worldview, not in the sense that his stories have to do with priests and bishops, etc.  Ordinary people live ordinary lives, but with extraordinary responses when challenges arrive.

O’Brien also is notable for his willingness to present good as good and evil as evil, without smearing the one into the other.  He may present something as beautiful in merely worldly terms, but by the time he is done with you, as a reader, you see what the difference is between that which is mired in the world (and its prince) and what is directed to heaven and the King.  There is also a strong Marian thread in his books.

I have been marking passage in the book about which I thought, “I have to share that with the readers!”

So… I am a third of the way through it and it is already paying dividends for my time and attention.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, REVIEWS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. At 1076 pages and 2.75 inches cover to cover, this probably not only the deepest but also the biggest Catholic novel of our time. Especially fascinating to me was the Russian spirituality in the second half of the book. Quotes from the blurb:

    “This is a magnum opus in quality as well as quantity. All of O’Brien’s large and human soul is in this book as in none of his shorter ones: father, Catholic, Russophile, Canadian, personalist, artist, storyteller, romantic. There is not one boring or superfluous page. When you finish The Father’s Tale you will say of it what Tolkien said of The Lord of the Rings: it has one fault: it is too short. A thousand pages of Michael O’Brien is like a thousand sunrises: who’s complaining?”
    Peter Kreeft, Ph.D. , Boston College, Author, You Can Understand the Bible

    “The best of Michael O’Brien’s novels. He creates characters like Dickens, explores human relationships like Austen, and has the epic scope of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I believe this novel will merit inclusion in any list of the world’s greatest novels.”
    Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ`

    I’m not sure that Fr. Fessio’s last sentence is merely a typical publisher’s exaggeration.

  2. curtjester says:

    One point – the series that includes Father Elijah is the Children of the Last Day’s series. This series has a total of six books that are loosely connected.

    As for “The Father’s Tale”, I believe it is his best book to date. I listened and reviewed the audiobook version narrated by the great Kevin O’Brien of The Theater of the Word. http:/

  3. ScholaLady says:

    One thing I love about Mr. O’Brien is that his books are so rich in Catholicism, without reading like lengthy tracts for the Catholic Church.

  4. Banjo pickin girl says:

    The best modern novel I have ever read is probably A Cry of Stone.

  5. KAS says:

    My favorite is Father Elijah, just simply a fantastic novel. I’m looking forward to getting this one too. He does write some excellent novels!

  6. kwooding says:

    I’m two-thirds through, and the only question is whether I’ll start right over again–it’s that good! I need to get some post-it notes to mark the passages to share. As Father says, there are plenty.

  7. Joseph-Mary says:

    Father Elijah is also one of my very favorites! I am going to order this new one; God willing, I will have time over Christmas to read a novel.

    Ave Maria!

  8. akp1 says:

    All his novels are so good – I got this one on kindle as soon as it was released – it was a wonderful read, but my favourite is Islands of the World – I have never read anything as moving as that book.
    The Kindle edition makes easy reading as the books tend to be large and heavy! Enjoy it Father!

  9. jaykay says:

    Have just finished it! I got the Kindle edition this time, which as it’s a BIG book and I wanted to read it on the train (Irish commuter trains do not leave a lot of personal space for hefty tomes unless you like digging your neighbour in the ribs!). I will certainly read it again in about a year, as I did with Fr. Elijah and the other books in the Children of the End series.

    It’s not quite as overtly eschatological as those books but that element is of course there. It’s a cracking great narrative and better, I felt, than ‘Theophilus’.

  10. eulogos says:

    Followed your link and bought it for my Kindle in about 5 seconds. Love my Kindle! Thanks for the suggestion!

Comments are closed.