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
‘Thomas’s gradual emergence from a narrow dogmatic culture makes a fascinating story, cleverly constructed, in part through flashbacks to a series of overwhelming experiences. Lyrically written at times, it succeeds as a good mystery, unveiling its secrets in stages, but beneath that is a poetic quest for meaning and humanity in a world where a sexual predator is more acceptable than the one who exposes him.‘
-Dr Felicity Haynes, Philosopher, former Dean of Education, The University of Western Australia
‘Crooked Vows is a timely exploration of the dark and debilitating consequences of the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality, desire and the body. Importantly, it recognises that damage is inflicted on both children and the family, as well as on the members of its ordained clergy. Framed by the story of a trainee priest’s attempts to recover memories of the days following a plane crash, the novel cleverly integrates bush and city, guilt and desire, psychology and faith in a surprisingly suspenseful narrative.’
-Robyn Cadwallader, Blogger, Writer for Verity La Journal
‘Offered to us as a tale of turmoil in a Catholic soul, John Watt’s novel is also a deeply-felt study of the human struggle for liberty; of the price we might be willing to pay, and why we should.‘
-Robert Hillman, award-winning author