‘Isn’t There More to Me Than That?’
Book Pick: The Accidental Marriage
The Accidental Marriage
By Roger B. Thomas
Ignatius Press, 2014
219 pages, $19.95
To order: ignatius.com
The Accidental Marriage is a novel about Scott, a gay man, and Megan, a lesbian. Scott and Megan are good friends. One day, Megan tells Scott that her same-sex partner wants to have a child, and she wants Megan to be the one who conceives and carries the baby. Megan is hesitant about anonymous sperm donation, but Scott surprises her by offering to be the sperm donor. After several unsuccessful attempts at artificial insemination, Scott has an idea. It works, and Megan becomes pregnant.
And then things get very complicated.
Register readers may be surprised to see this unlikely story among the selections available from Ignatius Press, a publisher well-known for publishing books faithful to Catholicism. Yet The Accidental Marriage is being marketed as a Catholic novel, even though the main characters engage in behaviors that violate every tenet of Catholic teaching related to sexuality and the generation of new life, and nowhere in the book is there an explanation of Catholic teaching on these topics. There is only one Catholic in the entire story, and he appears in only one scene.
So how is it a Catholic novel?
In fact, what makes any novel a Catholic novel? Peopling the story with Rosary-praying, daily Mass-attending Catholics and interspersing the narration with Catholic doctrine? Those things will work, but only for novels that “preach to the choir.”
To reach a wider world, a Catholic novel must depict the journey of realistically flawed, questioning human beings as they search for answers and respond to circumstances according to who they really are and by building the story upon a Catholic foundation that may remain invisible but without which the edifice of the story crumbles.
It is this deeper, more substantive kind of Catholic novel that Roger Thomas has written.
Be forewarned that Thomas faces head-on the controversial subject matter of homosexuality and artificial reproductive technologies.
Catholics might also squirm when Scott and Megan more than once voice the common (though mistaken) assertion that “Catholics hate gays.” But Thomas doesn’t shrink from making others squirm, too: Late in the story, Scott admits his ambivalence about being “gay” and challenges the supposed immutability of a person’s sexual orientation:
“Truth is … I don’t know what [gay] means anymore. … When I think back to how I first got involved with my gay friends … I was a geeky kid, a social outcast, and some of my band buddies introduced me to the gay lifestyle. I became involved in a sort of gay underground at my school. I was thrilled to be accepted, to belong to a group … plus I didn’t have to worry about dealing with … troublesome girls. … Isn’t there more to me than that?”
No, the story doesn’t end with Scott and Megan on their knees in church, fresh tears glistening on their cheeks, after renouncing the homosexual lifestyle and going to confession.
But the patient reader will be rewarded by the promise of good things in store.
The rapidity with which Scott volunteers to be the sperm donor strains believability, but once beyond that minor hurdle, the plot flows smoothly. The descriptions of sensitive topics are frank without being graphic, and it’s a heartwarming story, yet I would hesitate to recommend this book for younger readers. It is definitely for older, mature teens and up.
Clare Walker writes from Westmont, Illinois.