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In the midst of the busyness and stressfulness of life, it can be helpful to let yourself slip away into another world and immerse yourself in a good work of fiction. It’s even better when that work is also edifying — soul-filling, in a way that is unique to the world of “make believe.”
Fictional tales throughout the years have provided readers with a look into the culture and the heart of man in a way that few non-fiction works can do. Through powerful, insightful, sympathetic, even despised characters, readers are offered a front-row seat and a cathartic experience into the trials and triumphs of another human being. Great works of fiction have been shown to be as influential to society as any other genre of writing.
Popular Catholic authors, such as Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien, have all proven that fictional books can also be good for the soul. They have shown that it is possible for a fictional tale to have a far deeper meaning to the reader than to just provide a momentary break from reality.
These well-known writers have weaved tales in their fictional novels that have taken their readers down the path to a greater understanding of the world and their place in it. O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday and Tolkien’s very popular works, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, are examples of fictional stories meant to stir something within our collective consciousness. Contemporary author Michael D. O’Brien accomplishes this same “soul-stirring” in his new release, The Fool of New York City.
The Fool of New York City takes a unique look into the complex life of a young man who has suffered much loss. The story surprises with its unexpected characters, including a kindly “giant,” Billy, whose heart is proven to be as big as his stature, and a protagonist, “Francisco” who is suffering from amnesia. Through a series of entertaining events, Francisco comes to fear learning about his past, as much, if not more, than he fears his new-found reality.
O’Brien’s book masterfully explores common themes such as trust, fear, loss and ultimately hope and forgiveness — all against the backdrop of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It is impossible to read this book and not feel invited to examine your own life and all of its unexpected twists and turns, joys and disappointments, with the overwhelming desire to maybe trust just a little more in the humanity of others.
As Billy tells Francisco, “The point is, it’s good for people to open up to others. Sooner or later, a person has to make a choice to trust. You gotta start trusting someone, even if it takes you to places you hadn’t expected, even to hard places.”