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Painting an unforgettable portrait of the grand and petty motivations of the human heart this poignant novel tells the story of Father Samuel Whiting who simply exists asleep in his own life adrift in a loneliness of his own creation When a circus comes to town and his self imposed isolation is shattered he gradually awakens to a world of possibility embarking on a journey of discovery through the uncharted terrain of his own heart Whiting’s tale is one of insecurity and false hopes of self absorption and self denial and of reaching out and falling short Finally blinded by self delusion and at the brink of despair a challenge to serve will change everything he believes about the true cost of love

10 thoughts on “Dancing with Gravity

  1. says:

    I should start by mentioning that I'm not at all religious academically interested but not a believer in any of the Books so I was admittedly a little skeptical about reading a story with a priest as the main character However though there are a few homilies here and there and Whiting's faith is an important aspect of the book I didn't feel preached at or that the book's main intent was actually to 'spread the good word' or revel in the mutual beliefs of the author and reader Both of which I have a pretty low tolerance forI actually quite enjoyed Whiting's storyno enjoy isn't the right word because this is one of those books that is good but an uncomfortable read Another reviewer called it emotionally draining and that's a good way to say it It's draining but it's worth the cringe moments for the way it humanised priests They're often just reduced to caricatures of their collar especially in these post abuse scandal days Whiting is having personal issues but the last thing he could ever be called is a predator The book doesn't go there AT ALLThis isn't really a story about a circus In fact Whiting doesn't even meet the circus performers until 35% into the book and he doesn't get to know any of them until closer to 60% It's not really a story about one man's desire to rediscover the value of his calling or vocation either though it's touched on This is a story of one man's almost unconscious search for meaning in his lifeHe's having a bit of a midlife crisis not that he realises that and it takes the form of 'love'—deep passionate obsessive self absorbed utterly extinguishable 'love'twice in a matter of days The story really is watching his internal strugglesAt one point Whiting says to another character You always make me sound so naïve She responds that he isn't but he is It part of what makes him so loveable He's naïve but not stupidly so He's just inclined to see the good in a person or circumstance than the potential for harm even when it's obviousIn the beginning he reminded me of Prince Myshkin from Dostoyevsky's The Idiot full of emotional reflection and genuine good will but a step removed from social understanding and therefore often confused and deceived if only by himself and therefore deemed deficient By the end however he was differnt He'd been broken and reformed to become something else something And it was a painful if unacknowledged process for everyone involved There were also some very real consequences of his actions inactions and inattentions His transformation was subtle but oh so realThe writing was marvellous It matched the tone of the book wonderfully I did think that some of the internal thoughts were disruptive Not all of them most played an important role in letting us in on Father Whiting's mental state The man started the book fragile I mean he's a mental and emotional basket case I don't mean crazy but he overanalyses everything second guesses himself constantly and is overly aware of his own social awkwardness thereby of course making it significantly worseThe internal and occasional external monologues are important but other ones aren't There are times he does things like make a cup of tea thinks tea will make it better and then sits to drink his tea The thought is redundant and breaks the narrative There were a number of these sorts of little internal snippets that I could have done without But for the most part it was well written engaging and thought provokingIf you're looking for a strong character driven novel this is a good one to pick up It's not an easy breezy book but not all of them should be

  2. says:

    I’m not exactly a religious person and almost never read books that could be labeled “Christian Fiction” but there was something about the description of Dancing with Gravity the debut novel from Anene Tressler that made me think this one was somehow a little different than the typical genre offeringDancing with Gravity tells the story of Father Samuel Whiting a Catholic priest who finds himself approaching middle age only to discover he’s not entirely sure how he got to where he is in life nor is he sure he wants to be there anyAlready constantly questioning his ability to adequately handle his role as head of Pastoral Care at a teaching hospital in St Louis Father Whiting returns from an extended trip to Italy for a conference only to find another large and unusual responsibility foisted upon him to minister to the spiritual needs of a group of circus performers who have set up shop at the nearby Missionary Sisters of the Little Flower’s motherhouseAs Father Whiting gets to know the colorful members of the troup he strikes up a friendship with Nikolai one of the trapeze artists As their unlikely friendship deepens Father Whiting comes to realize he’s been sleepwalking through life not fully experiencing all it has to offerAuthor Anene Tressler does a very nice job of allowing the reader a glimpse into the turmoil raging in Father Whiting as he seeks to overcome the confusion and doubts awakened in him by his association with his vibrant new friends Chief among those doubts is the question of love Is platonic love enough? What is he to do with the feelings he is suddenly all too aware he feels for the attractive public relations director at the hospital where he works? Can he live a full and exciting life while still holding to the tenets of the priesthood?Though some of the trials and tribulations which Father Whiting faces are specific to his position as a Catholic priest just as many are of a nature that could confront any person during the course of their life is the secretary he inherited from his predecessor really trying to sabotage him? Dancing with Gravity is not about the struggles a Catholic priest faces as a man but of those experienced by a singular man who just happens to be a Catholic priest In the end Father Whiting’s path to self discovery brought to mind for me a line from John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem Maud Muller “For of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these It might have been”If you really can’t get “past” the idea of a Catholic priest as the protagonist of a book then this just isn’t for you there’s no way around that But if you’re willing to take the story as it comes to look at Father Whiting the same way you would any character tackling their own unique set of problems and challenges in life then you should definitely consider going Dancing with Gravity

  3. says:

    Mentally draining thought provoking and utterly fascinating are the descriptions that come to mind after reading Anene Tressler's Dancing with Gravity An International Book Awards 2011 Literary Fiction Winner Dancing with Gravity immerses the reader into the novel through rich descriptions some of which caused giggling on my part Whiting took his ice cream and stepped over to the trash barrel to unwrap it The wafer stuck to the paper so that each time he lifted a piece of the wrapper it tore Tiny strips stuck to his fingers Ice cream dripped down his hands he leaned over the trashcan to avoid dripping anything on his jacket He tasted paper and spit it out As he unwound the sandwich a large chunk broke off and fell into the barrel He tossed the remainder into the can in disgust and looked around for a napkin or water to rinse his hands 161 and clever use of vocabulary He knew the parents wanted him to respond but his words were stillborn 136 The complex protagonist Father Samuel Whiting an educated man who suffered a less than stable childhood inserts the proper anecdotes at the proper time but remains socially and romantically immature at the age of forty eight Whiting's incessant questioning analysis and uncertainty invites the reader into his psyche and ultimately into the role of psychiatrist to his ramblings from the metaphorical couch thus naps were needed between reading sessions in order to process and recover Tressler accurately portrays the ideal that there is much to a person than what one witnesses on the outside even a person who acts as a spiritual advisor or counselor experiences real emotions The setting of Dancing with Gravity centers around a circus specifically located in St Louis Missouri so why not have your book club entertain the idea of a group outing to the circus? Circus Flora has been thrilling St Louis audiences for over 25 years If this is not possible bring circus food to your book club discussion Hot dogs flavored ice cotton candy popcorn and an ice cream sandwich for the road In closing talks recognize the importance of thanking a spiritual advisor pastor rabbi counselor or guru Trained to assist others these often thankless professions deserve appreciation

  4. says:

    I could not finish this book it simply was not for me at all however I have seen reviews were people love this book so check reviews I chose to spotlight the book on my book review blog Rundpinne

  5. says:

    This novel examines a priest's life and I'll admit I found it difficult reading I'm not sure if it challenged me because the priest's interior life had conflicts or if it was a result of what the conflicts wereIn the end I enjoyed it It's character driven and it made me consider the challenges of a priest's vocation in a ongoing way

  6. says:

    Thanks for the recommendation Kristina