Picks and Pans Review: The Catholic

updated 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/12/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by David Plante

This distinctive novel is linked to a series that includes four earlier books: The Family, The Country, The Woods and The Foreigner. At least the narrator, a young man named Daniel, is the same in each book. Biographical details about growing up in a French-Canadian family in Rhode Island are carried over from book to book. In The Catholic, Daniel has finished college and is living in Boston, teaching English to foreign-born students. His former college roommate, a man he once loved, has married and has an infant son. This young man and his wife and child are Daniel's friends, his "family," his "holy family," as he sometimes sees them. Daniel is supposed to be 24 years old but he suffers from a case of self-consciousness so paralyzing that he seems a preoccupied teenager. He is totally self-engrossed, in his rejection of his Catholic upbringing, in his appearance, in the effect he has on others. The earlier volumes have suggested that Daniel was homosexual, but this book presents a scene of graphic sex unlike anything in the other Plante novels. The homosexuality is entwined with religion: "As a Catholic, I felt my childhood had, in a way that seemed simultaneously concrete and elusive, been like that night I'd spent with Henry: there was no explaining it, there was only experiencing it, like some strange conversion, to have any sense of it." Plante, as always, is a careful craftsman with an original voice. Readers of his other novels certainly will want this installment, but newcomers to his work should read the other books first. (Atheneum, $11.95)

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