With a song in his soul but little sense in his head, the title character of David Athey’s novel, Danny Gospel, sets out on a journey through Iowa, Palm Beach, and his own past, looking for the woman in white who kissed him in the night. Guided by God, his heart, and the occasional mosquito, Danny encounters a diverse cast of friends and strangers, through whom he explores the events that have shaped him. Eventually, he finds the future that is calling him.
Danny, a mentally-challenged young mail carrier in Iowa, has suffered much in his life, from the loss of most of his family to the betrayal of his fiancée. However, through it all he has maintained a strong —and sometimes strange— faith in God. Narrating the book, Danny tells a story that is at times touching and poignant and other times bizarre and funny.
Athey’s debut novel shows his considerable skill at characterization. Everyone in the story has his or her own faults and quirks, and, though no one is perfect, each character is interesting and realistic. Even the secondary characters have complex emotions and motives that show through the writing rather than having to be spelled out by the author.
The novel jumps back and forth in time and may be tricky to follow at first. This isn’t a mistake on the author’s part, but symbolizes Danny’s troubled mind and the associations he makes between events. Through flashbacks, the reader vicariously experiences the occurrences that have shaped the character.
Although the novel often focuses on the tragedies that have befallen Danny and those people around him, the tone is still lighthearted enough to avoid being depressing. The main character’s unique perspectives provide humor to the story, and his naiveté leads him into situations that the reader can’t help but chuckle. Despite his social and intellectual shortcomings, Danny strives to honor God through his words and deeds, much like Paul told us to do in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
David Athey’s writing sometimes falls a bit short, as he tries to make his style fit Danny Gospel’s odd personality, but these shortcomings do not detract from the novel as a whole. The prose is rhythmic and smooth and does not jar the reader from the story. Danny Gospel will be an encouraging book for those who understand that our world is full of sin and suffering, but who continue to hope nonetheless.
Overall, the book has a very realistic feel. Humor and sorrow go hand in hand, contrasting and complementing each other. In the end, not everything has a perfectly-resolved storybook finish, but the most important issues are tied up in a conclusion that is, if not exactly happy, at least satisfying. -- Nathan Biberdorf, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
As a boy he performed concerts singing old-time hymns with his family and got so famous he's still known around Iowa as Danny Gospel. But since then, things haven't worked out quite the way he planned. And now Danny prays for just one thing: a normal, happy life.
What he gets instead is a kiss.
He wakes one morning to a perfectly lovely woman dressed in white who leans down, kisses him on the lips ... and then disappears. The next moment, Danny finds himself launched into a quest to find this woman he's sure is his true love. He is an everyday hero on anything but an everyday journey—dreaming impossible dreams and, no matter how much he must suffer, pursuing romance and heavenly glory.
Funny, poignant, and revelatory, this elegiac and luminous debut by David Athey introduces a character you won't soon forget. A man who seeks God's leading at every crossroads and believes that sometimes paradise is as close as an Iowa cornfield.