The Gospel Of Winter by Brendan Kiely | Book Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Gospel Of Winter by Brendan Kiely | Book ReviewThe Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely
Also by this author: All American Boys
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2014-01-21
Genres: Boys & Men, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

A fearless debut novel about the restorative power of truth and love after the trauma of abuse.As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg—the only adult who actually listens to him. When Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of new friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s. The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. Brendan Kiely’s unflinching and courageous debut novel exposes the damage from the secrets we keep and proves that in truth, there is power. And real love.

Brendan Kiely debuts with The Gospel Of Winter, a young adult contemporary book about the trauma of abuse. If you are in the mood for a hard-hitting, affecting read, then be sure to pick this one up. Kiely’s book is more literary than it is commercial. It is a well written read. I was initially drawn to this book because I was curious as to how the trauma would be portrayed. I was also interested in the issue that the book lays out which is that out institutional abuse within the Catholic Church.

The Gospel Of Winter opens up with main character Aidan hanging around the house as his maid and his mother prep for a party his mother is hosting. Aidan, feeling down, snorts some ADHD medication. At the party, Aidan interacts with fellow teens and their parents, but finds himself wanting to leave the party to read “Frankenstein.” This isn’t in the cards for him, so he rounds up Josie, Sophie, and Mark, kids from school and hooks them up with some alcohol from Old Man Donovan, his dad who just so happens to be in Europe with his Belgian mistress. Unfortunately, the teens all get in trouble and Aidan takes the fall. After the party, he is even more despondent, so he goes to Most Precious Blood, his Catholic Church to seek solace from Father Greg, an adult who has basically groomed Aidan into thinking that Father Greg is the only one who can help him. Unfortunately, Father Greg sends Aidan away because he’s training a new altar boy. It’s then that Aidan witnesses something horrific which then calls Aidan’s own personal trauma to mind and this is what he deals with for the rest of The Gospel Of Winter, along with navigating the waters of new friendships, a girlfriend, and a fractured family.

Aidan is the sort of character who is an observer. He’s not the one in the middle of things. He’s not a social climber or the center of attention. Instead, Aidan sees and he watches and it’s almost like the world is passing him by. It’s not, of course. This is his story and he is certainly experiencing pain and trauma. Aidan is a victim of institutional abuse, yet it does not entirely define him. As a reader, I thought it was emotionally harrowing to see Aidan come to terms with his victimization and wrap his mind around the fact that he is not alone in his trauma. I also want to warn that Aidan does do drugs and drink alcohol, however it is a coping mechanism for dealing with the abuse that he has experienced.

I thought that Kiely did a superb job painting the grooming process. He shows how Father Greg gains access to the children and is able to keep the children silent and trick them into thinking his affections are “love.” We see that the abuses in this book are all about maintaining power and control over the victim through various means. I will say that some scenes are necessarily upsetting. They are hard to read, but they have a deep impact.

What a painful, moving story about abuse, power and control and acknowledging trauma. In addition to enjoying the writing and the characterization, I really liked the 2001-2002 setting, that was my freshman year of high school so the recounting of “current” events felt especially real to me, during the book we learn about how they are dealing with the fall out of 9/11. This is a book is an accessible read with fantastic prose. If you want a haunting read about important issues, read The Gospel of Winter.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. Ooh! This looks really interesting. I will definitely be looking into this one. Thanks!