Thomas, a 23-year-old student priest, emerges alone from the wilderness four days after surviving a plane crash. But a missing woman’s footprints are found with his, near the crash site. What part did Thomas play in her disappearance? And why does he claim he can’t remember?
Sent to a psychiatrist by Church authorities to recover his memories, Thomas’ life and world unravel in ways he could never have foreseen, shaking the very foundations of his faith, his loyalty to the Catholic Church and the vocation he had chosen.
Grappling with impossible expectations and burdened with guilt, the flawed characters show the consequences of oppressive rules colliding with impulses that can’t be tamed. This compelling and timely novel explores the underpinnings of a deeply conservative Australian Catholic community in the 1950s whose outward piety hides a shameful underbelly that dares not be exposed.
John Watt’s Crooked Vows is not only a compulsive read, it is also an evocative, almost poetic survival story conjuring up the beauty, power and destructiveness of the West Australian bush, coast and the ocean. It is also a story of self-discovery. It vividly captures the struggles of a young man in the 1950s trying to come to terms with meaning, belief and sexuality within an abusive and claustrophobic Catholicism. The cleverly constructed plot contrasts survival in the wilderness after a plane crash and the recovery of suppressed memories, with the turgid boredom of 1950s’ suburbia. The writing is limpid and engaging and tells the story with grace and elegance. It is a book that lingers in your memory.’
-Dr Paul Collins, ABC broadcast, former Priest, Writer and Historian