For those unfamiliar with Catholic lingo, the Theology of the Body refers to a series of talks given over several years by Pope John Paul II that explained the Catholic church’s teaching on human sexuality in terms of the nature of the Holy Trinity. As in, pretty deep stuff! So I was intrigued.
The story begins with Mary Catherine (Cate) Whelihan, a single, 30-something writer debating whether or not to return to her hometown for the funeral of her grade school principal. Cate had a pretty rough time of it in childhood, with constant harassment from her schoolmates culminating in her horrifying discovery of a murdered classmate in the 8th grade. If not for a cryptic message she just received from her grade-school crush, Gene Marcasian, she wouldn’t even be considering going home.
Cate decides to attend the funeral, but no sooner does she arrive and another classmate dies. Then she starts to wonder about the death of her former headmistress, a stalwart old nun who hadn’t been sick a day in her life until a mysterious illness a few months ago. With the help of her old friend Gene, now an OB/Gyn concerned with the high level of infertility and cancer among their grade school’s graduates, Cate helps to uncover a vast conspiracy involving big pharmaceutical companies, the EPA, the Mafia, and people she’s known her entire life.
On top of all that, this new situation forces Cate to confront all the feelings of inferiority and resentment she’s carried inside towards those who bullied her in childhood. Her renewed friendship with Gene, now a devout Catholic (though not without a few skeletons in his closet), also inspires her to confront the truth about her own loss of her childhood faith.
This was a very fun book to read! I enjoyed the fast-paced and complicated plot, as well as the more in-depth exploration of Cate’s feelings upon coming home for the first time as an adult. I have never attended a high school reunion, much less a junior high reunion, and probably part of the reason is the number of issues I’d have to face if I did! And my experience of school was nowhere near as difficult as Cate’s.
I also enjoyed that while the mystery was solved by the end of the book, Cate did not work everything out in her personal life. It would been too much if she had also suddenly decided to embrace her childhood faith after three days of being back home. She doesn’t, but there are hints she might be open to it in the future.
Also, this book is not a Catholic morality pamphlet disguised as a murder mystery. The “Theology of the Body” is in the background of the character Gene, who clearly respects Catholic teachings on sexuality in his medical practice and his personal life. I suspect this will come into play more as his and Cate’s relationship deepens in a possible sequel. This book focuses on some of the medical consequences of using the birth control pill for women’s health problems rather than the moral issues at stake.
My main criticism is that after everything has worked out at the end, the story ends with a cliffhanger epilogue. I really don’t like when books do that. It was clear to me without the epilogue that this could be the first book in a series. I would have much preferred for the epilogue to be included as a teaser first chapter for the next book in the series.
Now for the fun part…I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. But you can get a free copy too! Right now the Kindle version of this book is available for free through June 12 on Amazon.
After the 12th, I believe the book will be available for Amazon Prime members to borrow for free at any time. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can read ebooks using the free Kindle app on your computer or smartphone.
Don’t You Forget About Me would be a great addition to your summer beach reading. Enjoy!
And check out more books, as always, at Jessica’s!