Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Danny Gospel

posted for David


a novel

Author: David Athey
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.99
Number of Pages: 270

Publisher: Bethany House

Available everywhere.

Description: Once he'd performed in his family's gospel band, but now most of his loved ones have passed on. Still known as "Danny Gospel," he is living a quiet life as a postman in Iowa City. At the age of 25, his melancholy existence is broken open by—a dream, a vision, a sign?—a beautiful woman he is sure is his "beloved."

Logic and sense tucked safely out of harm's way, Danny launches a quest to find his true love. Always good-natured, he is a hero on a journey—dreaming impossible dreams and, no matter how much he must suffer, pursuing romance and heavenly glory.

But is his quixotic quest really for a vision of beauty—or is it a journey through pains too deep to name and emotions too raw to feel?


David Athey has written a Gospel novel, and not merely because of its title. It is a dream-like and mystical narrative that takes us inside the mind and life of a Christian who has sought to seize the Kingdom in the midst of sorrows and failures. At a time when much so-called “Christian” fiction is obscenely sentimental, Danny Gospel is a bracing and honest book.

--Dr. Ralph C. Wood, author, Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South

Sorrow and joy are at the wheel in a wild ride on the back roads of Iowa and beyond. Climb in, hang on, and hope.

--Paul J. Willis, author, Bright Shoots of Everlastingness: Essays on Faith and the American Wild

The Great Old Truths don’t change. But from generation to generation we need to hear them from new voices speaking in new ways…David Athey sings the same truths but with a new voice for our age. In an old Chevy truck in Iowa or a pink Cadillac in Florida, led by a providential mosquito, Danny’s life is a pilgrimage through a world that is hard and sad and funny and, ultimately, good. “We are companions on a journey” we used to sing, and our Lord will bring us home. Athey takes us on this journey again in his rich new song for our age, a song to help us see and know and live the Great Old Truths once more. This is a wonderful, valuable book, a joy to read.

--Dr. Jack Hibbard

David Athey's Danny Gospel is an amazing debut. This novel tells a story of a young man who loses his way, (and at times his mind), but never his faith. It's part coming of age, part adventure, part love story, part triumph and part tragedy. Danny Gospel is one of the most intriguing novels I've read to date.

--Gina Holmes,

This unusual faith-based novel explores pain and redemption through the eyes of…Danny Gospel…punctuated with lucidity and remembrances of a tragic but loving Christian childhood.

--Publisher’s Weekly

Danny Gospel is as compelling and engrossing a read as I have had lately….

--Phyllis Tickle, author, The Shaping of a Life

Danny Gospel is a tale charged with sorrow and suffering and hope and beauty. From the very first chapter, you will be whisked into a world of vivid detail, into a surreal existence in which every turned corner offers a sense of mystery. A cast of peculiar and diverse characters and a series of well integrated flashbacks help to unravel Danny's winding road to redemption.

--Skylar Hamilton Burris, editor, Ancient Paths Literary Magazine

Danny Gospel is the book the world needs to keep its faith in a post-9/11 world. Accidental deaths, Alzheimer’s, lost dreams, lost family and farm beat against Danny; he reels but keeps his vision. Magical, mythical, profound, Danny Gospel takes us from the lost family farms of Iowa to the lost beaches of Florida, and manages to cover everything, faith, doubt, kindness, cruelty, redemption and passion. Danny shines a light on suffering and praising, losing and submitting, paradise through grace.

--Faith Eidse, Ph.D., co-editor, Unrooted Childhoods

The imagery and description of nature within this work are rich and vivid. Athey is a true master of the English language. This novel is an instant classic.

--Dr. Jess Moody, author, Club Sandwich and A Drink a Joel’s Place

As we walk with Danny Gospel through the labyrinth of his life, we recognize in him an original character worthy of an immortality like that of Isaac Singer's
"Gimpel the Fool"... Danny's story is even more important and immediate in the illumination it sheds on our own strivings…and the hope he never relinquishes is Athey's gift to us and to our literature, a gift greater and more important even than that of a truly living character. If song is the doubling of prayer, as the saying goes, then Danny Gospel in singing the story of a life, transmutes it into a prayer and draws the reader's life too into that full-voiced song...

--Seraphim Joseph Sigrist, author, Theology of Wonder

What is a song? It is a perfectly expressed emotion. It is words that dance. It is a place one returns to again and again, like a rhyme, like a home. It is a cry to Heaven. Danny Gospel is a song. David Athey sings it.

--Dale Ahlquist, author, G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense

I've never read another novel like Danny Gospel. For a while I was thinking about how it’s in a Flannery O'Connor vein, but then I realized that there are some crucial differences from O'Connor. Danny doesn't just find grace and God at the final crisis of the story--rather, he lives a grace-filled life all along (even though it is marred by resentment against his brother, etc.), and he continually submits to mystery throughout the story. It's so amazingly rare in any novel to have a character who continually submits to God moving in mysterious ways. What makes the novel so powerful is the fact that Danny is not a paragon of spiritual submissiveness but is completely believable in his ambiguous vacillations, his shortcomings, aberrations, etc. He's a submissive protagonist who's not just simply submissive. In other words, he's not only a rare sort of character but also complex in a true-to-life manner.

--Mark Buechsel, Ph.D.

Danny Gospel lingers like a dream, as poignant as Danny's search for a normal, happy life...The cast of characters is striking, each of them a vivid flash of meaning that Danny tries earnestly to interpret. With a poet's eye for setting, David Athey renders Danny's world in sketches of suffering that, one by one, assemble a larger portrait of hope.

--Michael Larson, author, What We Wish We Knew

Those who face life looking through Christian eyes have one of three images
etched into their glasses: Christmas, the Crucifixion, or the Resurrection.
David Athey is one of the few writers who has the scope and the skill to
hold the complete picture close-up to the reader in his soul-opening novel,
Danny Gospel. For almost 200 years we have had novels of hopeless gloom or
shallow hope, but now we have one that faces all the reasons for despair,
especially the death of loved ones, the shattering of ambitious plans, and
failure to find an easy answer to harsh realities, yet because of periodic
glimpses of the good, beautiful and loving, the story is encouraging. The
central character has brutally tested faith, hope and charity that survive
because of periodic discoveries of love, light and beauty beyond reason.

The author ingeniously leads Danny through painful losses, almost including
his sanity, which is questioned by other characters, some of whom love him
and some who do not. Behind the plot, characters and images in the novel,
which is as smooth and dexterously woven as a good poem, one can sense
contemplation on the Bible, the sad clown Jesus painted by Roault, the
Christian mystics, Dostoevsky and many other Christian thinkers. Although
it is a novel about the search for wisdom it is also a dynamic realistic
story that is at the same time deeply symbolic, possibly a new literary type
one might call “symbolic realism.”

We all know, whether we know it or not, what a good novel is: it’s the one
we don’t want to stop reading, the one we don’t want to end, and that is
true of Danny Gospel. One cannot read it without thinking deeply about life, faith and the struggle to believe in a saving God of power and love. Danny Gospel is the best American novel deliberately written from a Christian perspective.

--Professor James B. Anderson


What inspired you to write Danny Gospel?

I’ve always been intrigued by the intersection between faith and foolishness. And one day I met a man who told me a story about how God had used a mosquito to give him driving instructions. When the mosquito sat on the dashboard of the car, that meant keep going straight. When the mosquito flew to a side window, that meant turn, even if there wasn’t a road. The man seemed crazy, but he was searching for a lost child. He was out searching while all of the “normal” people were at work or home watching television.

What makes this novel unique?

There is no character quite like Danny. In some ways, he’s similar to Don Quixote or a medieval holy fool, but Danny Gospel adds a whole new voice to the world of literature.

Was there any particular reason that you chose Iowa for your setting?

Iowa is so open. The landscape seems very simple, and yet I think it’s one of most mysterious places on earth. Anything can happen there.

With the word “Gospel” in the title, can one assume that the novel is about God?

God is ultimately a mystery, and cannot be controlled by anyone, including by novelists. A truly spiritual, literary aesthetic must be based on the invisible actions of God, and therefore be open to interpretation. Danny Gospel is full of God, and yet many of the moments of grace are not obvious.

In the story, Danny keeps praying for “a normal happy life”. It’s really a beautiful prayer.

Yes, he doesn’t want much. A few acres of land, a wife and some kids. You’d think a young man in Iowa could make that happen pretty easily. But Danny’s life is complicated by events and forces beyond his control. His name is Gospel, meaning “good news” but his life is full of crosses that he must bear. Somehow, “a normal happy life” must fit on those crosses.

There are passages of the novel that read like poetry. Do you have a background in poetry?

I’ve been publishing poems for many years in literary journals such as The Iowa Review, Connecticut Review and California Quarterly. Writing poetry is helpful to writing fiction because it teaches you how to compress thoughts, feelings and images into powerful phrases that expand with meaning.

Can you share a few lines of the novel that read like poetry?

“There is a moment in late autumn in Iowa when it seems the sun so adores the earth that the cornstalk leaves go all a-swirl and leap like love-struck flames. When I was a teenager in love, I was caught up in one of those moments when everything that could be seen was nothing but fiery, golden grace…”

Would you say that Danny Gospel is an easy novel to read, or a difficult one?

I would say that it’s a work of literature, written to stand the test of time. The novel has a surface level that is a pleasure to read, and there are also great depths to the story. Danny Gospel is a perfect book for reading groups because people will have various interpretations of this mysterious, beautiful character.

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