Posts Tagged ‘Catholic fiction’

SOME PEOPLE TRY TO BE TALL BY CUTTING OFF THE HEADS OF OTHERS.— Paramahansa Yogananda

“What I wanna know is who’s in charge?” one woman says to the other. She is shaking
her head as if speaking of something too horrible to be believed.
“Well, today it’s a scary world. Who is in charge of anything these days? You can take
all the precautions you want, but things still happen,” the other comments. “Mama said she
heard on Big Bam radio the guy went crazy and started shooting at everybody in the clinic.
People killed for no reason at all. You can’t predict something like that.”
“Yeah, just innocent bystanders doing their jobs, and some nut-case in a face-mask walks
in with a gun.”
“What’s worse, he got away! Who knows if they’ll ever find him?” She gives a depressing
sigh. “We live in a dangerous world.”

How could it happen?

In An Age of Mass Shootings, This Psychological, Southern Gothic Novel, Considers the Answers.

I thought about writing this novel, “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate,” several years ago after being shocked that in a small town near mine, a disillusioned and angry young man took up his shotgun and killed many of his family and co-workers. Why had he done it? Jealousy, greed, revenge, drugs, or some mental disfunction? Why had he destroyed the people he most cared for? Seemingly senseless shootings/murders like these seem to be becoming more prevalent. But the reasons behind them are ancient.

Most of us can retell the story of Cain and Abel, a story of one brother murdering the other. Genesis 4. When the Father (God) favored Abel’s gift over Cain’s, a few narcissistic traits began to itch in Cain, and then finally took him over — jealousy, greed, anger, and revenge, leading to Cain’s murder of Abel. Did God love Cain? Of course. But the sin of Cain separated him from God, just as sin separates us today from God.

Jealousy, Greed, Anger, and Revenge

I have no idea what caused the shootings in this nearby small town, but I suspect some of the above narcissistic traits were involved.

Our life is an ongoing drama between God and each of us. Whether we accept it or not, no matter who we are or what we do, each of us has an inborn, spiritual relationship with the God who created us, the God who loves us infinitely. We can deny it or shout our disagreement. We can act out in reprehensible ways to destroy God’s sovereignty over us. Our God-given free will allows that behavior. But truth cannot be altered. We were made to be good. We live in a world that God made to be good. And yet moral and physical evil exists in spite of the goodness — and therefore, human suffering exists. Yet, God is still merciful.

Goodness Left Behind

In the novel, “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate, goodness is left behind for a time, and evil runs rampart in Bethel, Alabama. Dr. Malcolm J. Hawkins, III, narcissistic, arrogant head of psychology at Bethel University feels his position and his credibility threatened by the impressive, up-and-coming English professor, Ginnie Gillan, because that is the way of narcissists.

Good and evil do not exist when searching for the best way to scratch an itch. The only question is, Can I get away with it? “says Dr. Malcolm J. Hawkins, PH. D.

If someone threatens Mal’s narcissist’s ego, he shifts into a war-like predator mode and scratches that ‘itch.’ Jealousy, greed, anger and revenge take over him, and Mal decides to use Ginnie’s husband Edmund’s fear and weakness against her. Feeding Edmund a steady diet of drugs and manipulation, Mal then lights the fuse of the greatest tragedy Bethel has ever known. Beyond understanding? Yes!

And yet there are explanations.

Expositions of Mal’s behavior: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-is-2020/201807/what-makes-some-narcissists-mean-competitive-and-jealous

How Edmund fits as Mal’s victim: https://www.thenarcissisticabuser.com/what-is-narcissist/

Though Edmund acts from a motive of jealousy and anger, he is not a ruthless man, but a victim of Hawkins, and of his own sad life story. Out of an impotence that leads to drugs and the easy way out, Edmund K. Gillan gives himself over to Dr. Hawkins’s control in an effort to relieve his debilitating headaches, stemming from his childhood.

Edmund Gillan is outwardly unassertive and weak, a person who’s never won first-place in any contest because he never asked to play the game. Inside, he yearns to be decisive and strong as is his well-liked wife, Ginnie. Edmund is an assistant Sociology professor, raised by his grandfather, a Holiness preacher whose condemning voice Edmund still hears, though the old man is now dead. From the time he was a student at Bethel College until the present, Edmund has allowed himself to be under the heavy thumb of Dr. Hawkins; frequently visiting him for the kind of numbing relief the psychologist provides. Hawkins pretends to listen to Edmund, gradually hooking him on drugs, just as he has many other students who afterwards, never fail to tout him, stroking his unfathomable ego–just what Hawkins is after.

An extremely envious and narcissistic man, Mal Hawkins sees every situation and person as a threat; so when he hears that Edmund’s wife, Ginnie, is seen as an upcoming superstar at the college, and may soon be a department head, Mal views her as deadly competition, and decides to bring her down, using her own husband as his pawn. Edmund loves his wife, but he also loves the drugs Mal gives him. The drugs, his headaches, and the voice of his grandfather, keep Edmund in constant conflict.

Opposition to Wickedness

Just as in a novel, there are real-life compassionate and loving people that shine in opposition to wickedness. Loving teenager, Alma Broussard, lives with her quirky mother Moline, who works in a dental office, and her feisty Aunt Pauline, who runs the chicken farm on which they live with Jose Alvarez and his teenaged daughter, Angelina who has leukemia. Their lives seem wholly separate from the feuds of academia—but again, revelations emerge, and dark secrets lurk in Moline’s past that will bring the people she loves straight into the path of a murderous madman.

Mercy

Even after Cain’s murder of his brother, God showed him mercy. The same mercy He shows not only in this novel, but upon repentance, to us as well. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God declared to Cain, “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:11-12). In response, Cain lamented, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me” (Genesis 4:13-14). God responded, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Genesis 4:15-16).

Shooting at Heaven’s Gate is a “Theology of the Cross” novel, a battle between good and evil. A bona fide WAR, in which genuine goodness and grace are confronted by wickedness. In the wake of death and destruction, Bethel, the town that used to be called Heaven’s Gate, will find no easy answers, but always, there is hope for mercy and redemption. 

PRIOR PRAISE for Shooting at Heaven’s Gate:

Family relations and lifelong secrets, human brokenness and the grace of transformation, mass shootings, deception, sin and forgiveness. These fundamental themes of the human search for meaning, of the challenge of faith, reconciliation and conversion, are woven throughout this story of a small town in rural Alabama. The complexities of each character, from university professors to farm hands, become the stage for an exploration of the human condition, in the style of C.S. Lewis, with echoes of T.S. Eliot, Geoffrey Chaucer, Macbeth and many others. The novel is followed by a list of themes, questions for book discussions and selected quotes, making it all the easier for study groups of any kind.Fr. Christopher Viscardi, SJ, Chair and Professor of Theology at Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama

Kaye Hinckley has more than earned her keep as a significant contender vying for a living Catholic literature. Joshua Hren, How to Read (and Write) Like a Catholic, Co-Founder of the MFA at University of St. Thomas, Houston

With a brisk narrative pace, Shooting at Heaven’s Gate by Kaye Park Hinckley invites readers to explore the complicated lives of characters suffering with loss, illness, addiction, and deception. The plot twists make this novel both entertaining and thought provoking with the reassurance that good does win.Johnnie Bernhard, award-winning author of Sisters of the Undertow and Hannah and Ariela.

Faith and faithlessness do battle in Kaye Park Hinckley’s thought-provoking, unsparing new novel. She reveals the hellish torments … and heavenly convictions … of everyday people in a small Alabama town in an age of mass shootings. Bring faith as you enter Heaven’s Gate. Charles McNair, author of The Epicureans

Don’t be lulled by the easy, descriptive manner of the beginning chapters. They introduce opposing characters whose thoughts and actions display the good and bad of human nature. Soon, you’ll be put on high alert, and move at lightning speed to satisfy a need to know how these characters interplay with each other. Mal, the manipulator and Edmund’s muddled loss of reality, cause the reader to begin to question, even fear what’s coming, hoping it’s the dream state of a sick, delusional man. Of course, it is no dream. Once the sound of metal is heard, the energy and climax of the book literally explode. Throughout the entire novel, the belief in salvation and forgiveness through confession, suffering, and atonement surfaces as a tenet of Catholic belief, symbolized not only in the characters, but in minute details…about flowers, and guns, geography, and history. Topics of current world concern are touched upon and mentioned briefly, without political overtones, but enough to generate reflection about good and evil, and how they come to be in the human person. A great read. – Terry Lonergan, Longtime Educator, Principal, and reader, Atlanta, Georgia

“Shooting at Heaven’ Gate is different from Hinckley’s other books as the moral themes are explicit and upfront, rather than subtle. I believe this work is a masterpiece. But then I love Kaye’s books because of how she writes (with the eloquence of angels) and for her choice of gritty topics (life is messy). “Shooting at Heaven’s Gate is not Pollyanna and cotton candy. Rather it is filled with real-world brokenness and the need for redemption, accurately painting the struggles on this side of the grave. — Denise-Marie Martin, author of the  upcoming novel, “Tangled Violets,” to be released September, 8, 2022.