This was another MFA required read, and sadly, I wasn’t really impressed by it. I’ve noticed a trend in books of this time period (Graham Greene was writing in the 20s, 30s, and early 40s) disappointing me, and I have a feeling it’s partially because I don’t understand the social temperature of that time, nor the social issues being tackled in books of that era.
So this low star-rating is quite possibly not the book’s fault. I know several people, (including my professor, who did an awesome presentation on this novel) who adore Graham Greene, and in particular “The Power and the Glory.” But I feel I could’ve gone through life without having read this.
Having said that, I don’t think this book should be avoided as there were some great things about it; they just didn’t work for me.
Greene’s book takes place in rural Mexico where a governmental take-over has decreed Catholicism illegal. Churches are destroyed, priests are either forced to marry or are hunted down and killed, and extreme poverty covers the land.
In the midst of this, one priest, the Whiskey-priest, has managed to avoid capture and is trying to escape over the mountains to the safety of Mexico City. However, his journey is continuously interrupted by villagers needing him to say mass, take confession, and offer the Eucharist. He does this at great risk to himself and to the villagers, and struggles throughout the story with the question of whether or not he’s a good priest since he carries so many sins himself.
While I didn’t find the prose to be very engaging, Greene’s inner look at the mind of a human trying to do God’s work was interesting and, I think, incredibly important. Greene creates a human out of what society normally sees as a face in a robe.
The Whiskey priest vacillates back and forth between turning himself in because it would be easier, giving up the cloth because it’s safer, and continually coming back to his own belief that the work he does as a priest is necessary for the people, regardless of the sins he has committed and the fraud he finds himself to be.
The subject is interesting, but the prose is meandering, there are characters that have very little to do with the actual plot, and I found reading whole chapters devoted to them tedious. It has a very Steinbeckian feel to it, and I’m not any more into Steinbeck than I was this novel.