Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism: Irresistible

Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism: A Novella Kindle Edition by Mike Mignola (Author), Christopher Golden (Author)Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher GoldenFather Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden

There is just no way I can resist reading a novella called Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism, especially when it’s written by the guy who created Hellboy. As I expected, I was rewarded with just over 4 hours of constant audio entertainment.

The young priest Father Gaetano has just been assigned to a church in Sicily that has taken in children who were orphaned during World War II. The nuns love the children and are doing the best they can, but they are happy to have Father Gaetano’s help with the teaching. In the aftermath of war, most of the children have lost their families and they’re dealing with the most difficult of all theological questions: How can God let bad things happen to good people? Father Gaetano admires the children for not being willing to settle for such platitudes as “God still loves you” or “it’s all in God’s plan” and he looks forward to teaching such inquisitive minds. But how can he teach these precious children the deep truths of God in a way they can understand?

When he finds a box of beautifully-crafted puppets and a puppet theater in the basement, Father Gaetano decides to use these tools to teach his lessons. He and one of the boys work hard to paint and dress the puppets for their roles. The puppets are a big hit with most of the kids, though there’s one boy who is afraid of them. It turns out that he has a reason to be; the puppets come alive at night. They sneak into one of the boys’ rooms and play out the roles that Father Gaetano gave them during the day. The priest and the nuns, of course, don’t realize what’s going on… Not until Father Gaetano, in his quest to make the children understand why bad things happen, decides to teach the children about the origin of sin. For this lesson, therefore, he creates a Lucifer puppet… Uh-oh….

I thoroughly enjoyed Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism. It’s well-written and exciting, the characters are developed quickly and sufficiently, the story manages to be both sweet and delightfully creepy. I particularly appreciated the beautiful portrayal of the nuns’ and the priest’s self-sacrificial love for orphans — this is what real Christianity is supposed to look like. I loved how Father Gaetano didn’t dismiss, but rather respected, the children’s questions. I loved the way the story abruptly switched tone and became suddenly very dark. I won’t tell you what happens, but it was a great ending!

I listened to Brilliance Audio’s version read by Nick Podehl. Podehl has a great voice, but his pacing isn’t perfect. He has a way of drawing out or emphasizing words in a slightly unnatural way, but this is more noticeable than distracting. I sped up the playback slightly and didn’t notice it after a while. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the audio version, but you should also know that the print version of Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism has a few black and white illustrations by Mike Mignola.

Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism — October 16, 2012. In the aftermath of a critical World War II battle, Father Gaetano is assigned as the sole priest at the Church of San Domenico in the small seaside Sicilian village of Tringale. The previous pastor has died and there is a shortage of clergy at the moment, so until another can be spared, the young priest must say all of the masses himself. Mass is not Father Gaetano’s only responsibility, however. The war has created many orphans, and thus the San Domenico rectory has been converted into an orphanage that is also his domain. The children are a joy to him, but they have lost so much, many have begun to question their faith and their God, and his attempts to teach them catechism are in vain…until he finds an old puppet theater and an ornate box of puppets in the basement. Handcrafted by the building’s former caretaker, now absent, the puppets seem the perfect tool to get the children to pay attention to their lessons. But after dark the puppets emerge from that ornate box, without their strings. Whereas the children have been questioning their faith, the puppets believe Father Gaetano’s Bible stories completely. Yet there is such a thing as too much faith. And the children’s lives will never be the same again.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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