‘Chosen One’ by Francis W. Porretto

A Nietzchean superman whose conscience is properly formed in dynamic Christian virtue. He would be beyond being beyond good and evil, and what a bloody relief that would be. He would be like a prince from Arthurian legend.

I just finished Francis Porretto’s novel Chosen One. (That link takes you to the novel’s ebook page where you can read it for free in any of several different forms.)

Louis Redmond is not perfect, but it’s a damn close call. He has what was once called a steel trap mind. He’s an engineer at a defense contractor in the fictional Onteora, New York. He has a temper and he’s impulsive in a just cause. He doesn’t want fame or even recognition, but he must be recognized for what he can do and how hard he does it. Redmond is an open book enigma. All there for those who know him, but a little too much for anyone.

There is much strangeness in this novel. The omniscient narrator, who comes and goes from the first person, is not human, though he lives as and among humans. It still wasn’t clear to me at the end of the novel whether he is more like a fallen angel or an avenging archangel. There’s something perhaps heretical in the way Porretto has drawn him. This is in many ways a Catholic novel, but I have questions about the narrator that I’ll probably need to read the sequel to get answers to, and I’ll happily read that sequel, On Broken Wings.

There is also a brief sequence at a mortuary where a young girl is allowed to tend to human husks, as it were. Another sequence features a terminally ill man brought back from the brink by the healing fellatio of his secretary. There’s a possibly homosexual priest straining against temptation. And there’s a senseless murder of a young man that, remarkably, is not avenged.

These are all part of the edgy gothic atmosphere of Onteora, which sits as a lost valley in central New York, torn by bitter winters and assaulted by brutal summers. Onteora is falling like the rest of America, but not quite as fast.

Porretto is an acute, sometimes painfully so, observer of the downward cascade of American society. He doesn’t trace the decline but catches it at mid-fall. He isolates the cascade at any given point, in the shattered ethics of men with small powers, in the draining down of virtue from the public orthodoxy, and in the onslaught of unfettered sloppiness against precision.

I like the way he catches people in their troubled interactions. This surprising capture of the incidental tensions that always lie among and between people is one of the most interesting not-quite-subtextual flows of the novel.

Chosen One is a rich and excellent book. I read it with unusual hunger and surprise and enjoyed it all the way through. I’m recommending it to everyone because I don’t think that this is a book that will otherwise get through the cultural filters. Mainstream publishers would run from its candor, not to mention its virtue and clear Thomist themes. It might be too Catholic for an Evangelical press and perhaps a tad heretical for the Catholics. That last bit I’m not clear about.

I urge my readers here to read it and to pass along word of it if you find it as superb as I have.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.