November 2, 2015 — New York Times bestselling author Fr. James Martin, SJ, known for his religious nonfiction books, turns to fiction with his first novel, “The Abbey.” The story of spiritual discovery centers around three characters whose lives intersect at a Pennsylvania abbey.
The book, which came to Fr. Martin in a dream, is about Anne, a divorced mom mourning the death of her son; Mark, a handyman; and Fr. Paul, the abbot of a monastery, all crossing paths at the abbey.
Before he literally dreamed up these characters, Fr. Martin had no plans to write fiction. But the next morning he woke up and began to write. “I thought, I’m not a fiction writer but maybe I could do this as an e-book. I loved writing it and I started to fall in love with the characters.
“Anne has difficulties with her faith because she’s angry with God because her son died, which is natural. The abbot tries to accompany her and help her see where God is. At the end, she is open and seeking.”
While writing the novel, Fr. Martin says he tried to be “Ignatian” about it. “You place yourself in the scene in Ignatian prayer, and I was trying to place myself within these people as I wrote.”
He says writing fiction was freeing and fun after writing his previous book on Jesus: “no Greek, no footnotes, no research!”
Publisher’s Weekly calls Fr. Martin’s pastoral sensibility his strength: “His compassion shines through the character of Father Paul. Like his fellow Jesuit Pope Francis, Martin is a persuasive evangelizer for a God, and church, of mercy.”
While it’s not a spiritual guide, Fr. Martin says he hopes that some may consider spiritual direction after reading the book. “What I’m trying to do is show what spiritual direction is through the novel … which is basically helping people notice God in their daily lives and in their prayer.
“I try to remove some of the mystery for readers, and I also hope it encourages them to want conversations like Anne has with Fr. Paul.”
There is no perfect ending, as “in life most things are not tied up with a neat bow; I wanted it to reflect people’s real spiritual lives.”
For more information, watch the video below of Fr. Martin introducing “The Abbey.” To order the book, visit jamesmartin.hc.com; to read an excerpt, click here. [Sources: Publisher’s Weekly, America Magazine]