Epic, uncomfortable, and, above all, important, “These Thy Gifts” by author Vincent Panettiere is a welcome addition to the canon of modern literature.
Told with an unabandoned ferocity that often does not accompany written pieces that deal with religion as its foremost subject matter, “These Thy Gifts” acts as a hybrid of the seriousness of literature and the whimsy of the human condition. Encompassing a period of 50 years, the books gifted author weaves a tale that is not only highly emotional, but extremely relevant to today’s world. With a tendency to act as both an omnipresent and intimate narrator, it’s clear from the book’s opening chapter (ominously titled “The Beginning of the End”) that the story that is to unfold before the readers’ eyes will be intense.
From a pedantic perspective, “These Thy Gifts” appears to have been written for the masses without losing its sense of affection for both the finely created characters or an all-too-familiar world. As someone who does not often review books that have religion and the institution of war as such a striking element, I was immediately engrossed by the author’s ability to weave the fine line of subtlety of the human experience to the contempt that so often follows the goings on of the Catholic Church.
Set in 2006 when the Catholic Church is embroiled in what appears to be controversy after controversy, the novel’s major character Monsignor Steven Trimboli is not only clearly affected by the tarnishing of his employer (so to speak), but also intent on fixing things that are within his sphere of influence. It becomes instantly evident that Trimboli is a deeply flawed but hopeful character. His interactions with the Catholic Church in 2006 act as a springboard to his life 50 years prior where Trimboli is doe-eyed and naïve, and fiercely intelligent. The people he meets in his life act as the foundation for all of his future relationships, including the one he has with God.
Instead of writing a book that is knee-deep in dogma, the author of “These Thy Gifts” goes where the reader does not expect him to. The lens he chooses to wear is not steeped in ridicule or derision of the Catholic Church. Instead, he tackles the idea of Catholicism in America through an open mind, free of mockery. Atypical at best, Steven Trimboli’s long lasting friendship with a gangster’s wife and an extremely powerful tour of Vietnam as an Army Chaplain, sort of makes him not only incredibly endearing, but also incredibly real. He’s a hero you root for and wish the best for.
There is an inherent anger at the heart of “These Thy Gifts” that can perhaps be seen as one of the core flaws of modern society. Sometimes using religion as an excuse to act irresponsibly and kill in the name of a God, the violence, abuse and corruption that exist within many institutions of religion are coming to the forefront of the public consciousness. Here, the author really excels in enlightening the reader on the provocations of questioning the foundations of personal belief systems.
Yes, “These Thy Gifts” is a heavy read. The reader should expect as much by simply reading the book’s jacket. Where the narrative really shines is in the author Vincent Panettiere’s clear ability to share information without colluding it. The reader is encouraged to form their own standpoint on the many contentious topics written about in the book without being spoon-fed. It’s a talent to narrate without telling, and Pannetiere has clearly mastered it.
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