Brian Dillon has fashioned a most lovable abuse victim into a ten-year-old Indy Jones. But in 1950’s Irish Catholic Boston the enemies aren’t Nazis but constant temptation, penalties for succumbing, and those waging war on sin to conceal their own. “For the Love of Mike” is a vivid account of Catholic school in the 1950’s. The gang’s all here; Attila the nun, class clowns, bullies, baseball, barrels and barrels of sin, fantastic pranks, unbelievably bamboozled parents and ‘he who hides in plain sight’ the evil parish priest.
Despite having his hands full avoiding further priestly advances life goes on and young Mike Kilgallen will not be deprived of adventure. From a child’s eyes we magic carpet back to innocence, its keen perceptions of new mornings, best friends, the infinity of the moment and its unbounded happiness for no reason at all. The flip side is acute fear. Dillon masterfully seduces us into the devil’s own shoes, plotting a young boy’s demise with cold calculated betrayals of one who dwells in those hideous states below death, whose sole mission among us is turning beauty into ugliness.
Compelling are Dillon’s depictions of this priest’s paradox personality, so capable of confusion while manipulating our power of choice with a maddening grip. Dillon has no mercy, pulls no punches with this vampire like character, “His very stock in trade was the mysterious fear preached weekly. Never was it love or forgiveness. He had half the town convinced that in the blink of an eye they could turn murderous or immoral, that he alone was the last guardian of that forbidden gate. The façade was brilliant, to his flock he walked on water. His shell was shiny yet beneath lurked a decayed being with the most wicked of intentions.”
He is wise not to generalize that these are the actions of all. Throughout we are reminded. But it’s down to thee and me for believing too much too often. For this we are not spared the dark shadowy forces that snatch young souls. Yanked abruptly upright we are forced to face the here and now, forced to observe. Then with gentle wisdom advised, ‘I love you very much, but sometimes I don’t.’ Alas, a boy is hunted by the very worst of predators. Yet still we drink deeply of a profoundly innocent mix of childish bad behavior, friendship, humor, and hope.
We are redeemed, for around every corner is rediscovery of joyous youth, its freedoms, barriers, purposes and for a short while we are restored those miraculous perceptions of the very young, the most basic gifts of God given life which ebb and dull as the years pass us by. It’s a story close to home anywhere on earth. A story where our hero becomes each of us, armed only with hopes and dreams, to stand at last victorious, a story whose messages of courage, honor and goodwill plead to be dusted off and handed out to all the world’s citizens.
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