I have had this for a while; and I am sorry I did not read it sooner!
I will definitely have some thorough feedback and a review; but if you are religious in any manner, you need to read this!
Author: Andrew Greeley
Born: February 5, 1928, Oak Park, Illinois
Died: May 29, 2013, Chicago, Illinois
Quote: Andy Greeley once said of the nation’s Catholic Bishops that they are “morally, intellectually, and religiously bankrupt.”
Andrew Greeley has definitely turned into one of my favorite authors. I found his books completely by accident, roaming around the aisles of my library looking for something to catch my eye. I believe it was a book from his “Irish” series, and the word Irish is indeed what caught my attention. What turned into reading a couple books over a weekend (yes, over a weekend; life was simpler then!) turned into me reading every single book I could find at my library and buy from Barnes and Noble. That these Irish stories also took place in Chicago, with references to real places in Michigan was just an added bonus for me. He wrote over 120 books, and had 10 that were on the New York Times Bestseller list, starting with The Cardinal Sins, which was published in 1981.
He wrote numerous stories and short series with different priests in the main role, and his stories were very open and honest about how he really felt God felt about his followers. These books had swearing, and sex, and even murder, as they were fiction, but I cannot imagine anyone of any religious background, or none at all, as being offended by what these stories told.
Mr. Greeley was a Priest, Scholar, Social Critic, and avid storyteller. He was very outspoken about demanding punishment for priests who abused children, often finding himself in hot water. He became wealthy from the publication of his stories, and donated his first earned million to charity, and continued to support numerous charities throughout his lifetime.
I have to say, I am not Catholic, I have only witnessed a Catholic wedding once, I have never been to a Catholic Mass, and am only familiar with the fact that Catholics say “Hail Mary’s”, use rosary’s, and confess their sins to a priest. I in no way mean any disrespect what-so-ever. I am a Lutheran (Protestant) and was raised that way, so that is what I know. I am only pointing this out because I grasped these stories with both hands and couldn’t bear to set them down. The storytelling is incredible, and when you finish one, you cannot wait to get your hands on the next. Reading about a priest who solves murders, and has a sense of humor, is fun and refreshing. I can honestly say I was deeply saddened when I began looking into information on Mr. Greeley and discovered that after suffering a stroke, he was no longer able to write, and was incapacitated for several years. I was even more saddened to learn of his passing when it happened last year, and thinking about the happiness his stories have brought me is making this difficult to write as well. There are many, many authors whom I deeply enjoy and will read their numerous books, but there are indeed only a few who truly get their words and stories wrapped around my brain and leave an indelible mark on me forever.
I’m happy to say I finished “The Quest”, by Nelson DeMille, on schedule as I planned. It was a good story, but there were a couple things that I did not care for (more on that later).
This story centers around 2 journalists (Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado) and a photographer (Vivian Smith) who are in Ethiopia to cover the war that is going on (per the book’s setting). This group runs into a dying priest who has been locked up in a tiny prison cell with no windows for 40 years. He was locked up because he was protecting the location of the Holy Grail.
Much of the story is centered on the war that is going on, and some extensive information about the leaders of these few groups that are at war with each other. The description of the war and the treatment, and disposal, of war prisoners is as graphic and terrible to read as you would expect it to be. The narrative gives you a real sense of being there, and seeing and experiencing what the main characters are seeing and experiencing. You can picture what the jungles and desolate lands look like while reading this story.
Where is the Holy Grail? In Ethiopia. In a monastery made out of black obsidian rock that is next to impossible to locate, and heavily guarded by monks. The majority of the story is centered around our 3 characters trying to find this place. They go to Ethiopia, are captured, abused, escape with their lives, only to eventually go back again, into the same war zone, determined to find the Holy Grail.
They barely make it out again, but do manage to find the black monastery and the legendary Holy Grail. But, out of the 3 of them, only two of them can see it, because the 3rd person, Frank Purcell, does not have the faith in his heart to allow him to see it, at first. Vivian Smith and Henry Mercado believed all along that this religious artifact was not only real but being safeguarded from thieves.
So what is Frank’s problem? He doesn’t believe in God, or Heaven, or have any sort of faith. This could be due to his time he spent in another war. Henry is older that Frank and Vivian, and spent even more time in war zones, but has a strong faith that does not waver throughout the story. In the end, Vivian basically tells Frank he has got to believe in order to see it. And it appears to him. The Holy Grail, a brass cup filled with the blood of Jesus Christ. The blood of Jesus was dripping from the lance that was suspended in thin air above the cup. Yes, the lance that pierced Jesus’ side as he hung on the crucifix.
What didn’t I like about the story? The forced romantic storyline that did not fit. It felt forced, like an afterthought, filler for the story but not that important. So Vivian is with Henry. Henry gets tied to a pole as a war criminal while Vivian and Frank escape this fate. But they are right there with him. So what do Vivian and Frank do? They are all convinced they are going to be executed by morning, so Frank and Vivian have sex. Up above where Henry is chained. In full view of him. Really? It seemed more impossible to me that this was going to take place than them finding the Holy Grail.
So Henry is angry, and Vivian and Frank are a little sorry, but likely not enough. Fast forward a few months, and Frank is convincing Henry that all 3 of them need to return to Ethiopia to find the grail. What happens during the next leg of the journey? You guessed it. Frank is test flying a plane, and Vivian wants to make Henry feel better about what she did to him, so she has sex with him. Really? Now Henry has one up on Frank, even if he doesn’t know it. But he finds out, of course. Then Frank is mad, and Henry is mad, and Vivian is just I-don’t-know what, but she is a piece of work.
They struggle through the end of their journey and lose a couple comrades on the way, but eventually find the Holy Grail, and maybe Vivian will stay with Frank, or maybe stay with them both because neither of them seems to be bothered by her lack or morals.
Good story? Yes. Great? Not for me. If you are a fan of wars, history, Rome, Ethiopia, or anything to do with the Catholic and/or Christian religions, you will likely enjoy this book. I didn’t ever feel like “I just can’t bear to finish this story”, but it is one book on my bookshelf that I will not likely read again. I’m glad I read it, it had me searching the internet for current, up-to-date information on the Holy Grail, as I know many religious factions are still searching for it today.