Angela's Club: A Love Story
Date Published: May 27, 2014
Number of Pages: 430
Print Price: $17.32
eBook Price: $3.99
Angela’s Club: A Love Story is a self-published novel by Dr. Carl Turner. From the cover notes, it is implied that this is his first attempt at writing fiction outside of poetry, but apparently he has written books on nature and theology. The subtitle, “A Love Story” is more than just an afterthought to the identity of this novel. The book’s main purpose, I believe, is to help the non-religious or even atheistic reader explore different kinds of love, or as the theologian might say, this book looks at Eros, Philos, and most importantly, Agape. This is a noble cause and I believe the author has partially succeeded. Two reservations are enumerated at the end of this review.
As if to provide a blank slate to begin his exploration of ‘love,’ the author introduces the protagonist, Nate, a man whom no one loves, it seems, except for a nurse named Sandy. Like the author, Dr. Turner, Nate is a physician. We tend to write about what we know after all. This becomes very apparent whenever the scene involves the hospital or a medical procedure. Luckily the technical jargon is kept to a reasonable level and the reader is not bogged down in medical terminology. Nate is the blank slate for this novel’s theme of the progression or types of love because the good doctor has favored efficiency over any kind of love. We learn that this is partly due to the lack of affection from his mother and father. Nate has made decisions throughout his life that have made logical sense, yet have always put practicality over emotion. This changes dramatically when he is forced to take a month off from work. His chance encounter with the owner of a book store initiates his adventure into the various stages and different kinds of love.
The owner of the book store, Angela, invites him to her book club meeting. Since Nate has nothing else to do during his month off from work, he takes a chance and attends. The others who normally attend these meetings are meant, in this reviewer’s opinion, to reveal the three main kinds of love in various stages of maturity. There is the married couple, the romantic couple and, of course, a Catholic priest, Fr. Jim, all of whom are friends through this book club.
It is Nate and Angela that are the focus of the first half of the book. Their actions portray unbridled romantic love to the extreme. Both of them being agnostic, they see nothing wrong with allowing their feelings to dictate their actions. It isn’t long before they fall into fornication and begin living together. Angela states clearly she doesn’t believe in marriage. Even Angela’s father, a Protestant minister, thinks there is nothing wrong with their arrangement and actually assumes they are living together without being told. The lack of any counterpoint to this obvious sinful situation is the first disturbing point encountered in the novel. Although it is understood that pre-marital sex and living together before marriage is considered normal and expected in today’s culture, there are still voices, most notably the Catholic Church, who hold up God’s plan for man and woman. Some hint that Nate and Angela’s physical relationship was wrong would have helped provide balance to the early part of the book. It is laudable that by the end of the book the author shows the wisdom of Catholic teaching on marriage, but there is not the smallest suggestion through most of the book of the disordered way the two main characters live.
Despite the explicit confession of the use of birth control by Nate, Angela becomes pregnant. There is little notice of her heart condition prior to this point, but it would be a serious danger, apparently, for Angela to bring this child to term. In fact, the physicians tell her she probably wouldn’t live and the child may or may not live. Everyone, including Nate, encourages her to abort her child. Angela makes the heroic decision to not kill her child. She is hospitalized at 20 weeks so the baby and she can be carefully monitored. During her stay in the hospital, she secretly takes Catechism lessons from Father Jim and is brought into the Church. Nate doesn’t find this out until she receives Last Rites the evening before she dies.
It is at this point that the most absurd exchange takes place between Angela and Nate. Angela, a new convert to the Catholic faith, asks Nate, the father of her child, to “raise her in the church.” When Nate, the agnostic, asks, “Which church?” the new Catholic convert, his wife, replies, “Your choice.” She then adds that the Catholic Church is not the only church and that Christianity is not the only religion. Angela continues with the heresy by telling him “Whatever church or religion you choose for her (the baby), will you take her to church?” Since the author claims on the back cover to have also written books on theology, this presentation of the prevalent feeling that all religions are equally true is disturbing. It is not logical because if all religions are true, then we would accept everything that all religions teach. For example, theism (there is a God who created the universe) and pantheism, (God is the universe) cannot both be true. Again, even though this is fiction, there is no counterpoint offered to help the non-Catholic reader understand the larger problems.
Another awkward scene has Father Jim agreeing to marry the two agnostics in a civil ceremony. It would indeed be legally correct for the priest to do what is being suggested, but morally/pastorally it would be a terrible idea. Since both agnostics were never baptized, then being married by a priest in a civil ceremony would be valid, but it would certainly give scandal and undermine the priest's role in forming a sacramental marriage.
The rest of the book would make a great Hallmark Channel “made-for-TV” movie. I will not spoil the plot for you, but suffice it to say that Nate, his parents, the baby and Sandy (remember her, the nurse from earlier in the book?) live happily ever after.
Carl Turner ties it all together for the reader in the final chapter. He makes it clear that marriage, fidelity and following the Church’s teachings brings the greatest joy. It is a heartwarming wrap up of a solid storyline. I recommend this book for adult readers who already have a solid understanding of Catholic teaching… with these two exceptions: 1) the book presents the idea that a person can believe whatever they want find their way to God. There were no alternatives described in the book except for the last chapter that implicitly showed the wonderful joy of following our Lord Jesus and His Church; 2) I would not recommend this book for teenagers because of the sexual and sensual passages. This was so explicit in some scenes as to cause this reviewer to skim past these parts. Really. Fast.
Finally, as with most self-published first attempts, there are some areas needing improvement. Dr. Turner describes things in too much detail in some places and writes what is obvious and does not have to be written in other places. This accounts for, in my opinion, the heft of the work. At 419 pages it is one thick book. Outside of this, I think Dr. Turner has great promise as a novel writer. His characters are well developed and the story was interesting. Just keep the book away from your teenage boys.Publisher: iUniverse
Original Language: English
Subscribe to the weekly e-newsletter Catholic, Ink. - click here - receive book reviews and the column "The Catholic Imagination and You"
Be part of the Catholic Literary Revival.