the Fancy Dancer

Ladymol's Review:

Tom is blond, gorgeous, athletic and single. Heís also a dedicated priest in a small American town in Montana.† Heís lonely, living with an elderly priest who enforces an old-fashioned religious discipline and has no friends at all, just acquaintances: the numerous local townsfolk who pass through his confessional.

One day, whilst playing the organ before confession, Vidal comes into church, the local bad boy, quarter Indian, lean and mean, beautiful as a model.

Vidal apparently wants to confess something so wicked that he canít do it in church. Father Tom goes along with the odd request to meet outside the confines of the confessional. Gradually, a deep and warm friendship develops between them, Tom finally finding the male companionship of his own age that he craves.

However, their friendship is profoundly changed one day when Vidal tells Tom that heís gay.† Tom sees an opportunity to put his pastoral mission into effect, counselling Vidal back to the light of heterosexuality.†

One of them is changed, but itís not Vidal.

This is just a great book. Itís incredibly well researched and the religious dilemma that Tom goes through seems utterly real to me. If I have one criticism itís that itís almost too real. Iíd have liked a little more suspension of beliefómore sex and less Catholicism. I canít fault the ending because itís utterly right for the book, but I canít help but want more of Tom and Vidal. The whole story is told in the first person of Tom, but you really want to hear Vidalís story too. Heís Dakota (Arson Ė The Dakota Series) and Dogwood (The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon) rolled into one. Heís by far the more interesting of the two characters, and I felt bereft when the novel ended and, by necessity, my contact with him. †Itís interesting that this novel is written by a woman, and I wonder if thatís why the way the sexy relationship is written appeals to women readers, too.

No graphic sex whatsoever, but intense sexiness all the way through. Highly recommended.

Cerisaye's Review:

A novel about Catholicism and homosexuality set in rural Montana in 1976.† Doesnít sound appealing?† How about this then- the story of a priest and the half-breed Native American hell raiser who tempts him from his calling.†

Tom loves music and drives a red sports car.† He admits he was never really interested in girls, so assumed he had a vocation, celibacy no problem.† When Vidal Stump comes crashing into his life, heís already looking for something, though he doesnít know what, to lift his spirits.† Life as a parish priest hasnít made him happy.†

When Vidal confesses to Tom heís the biggest queer in the state of Montana, and heís looking for a companion, we know itís a challenge.† Vidal is perfectly happy being gay.† He wants to talk about the attitude of the Catholic church, reminding Tom how priests burned men like him in the past.†

Biblical strictures against the sin of homosexuality are strictly political, as Jesus never spoke against same-sex relationships.† The message of the book is clear. Itís better to follow your own conscience than adhere to narrow-minded dogma.† Itís not what you are but what you do thatís important.† Living a lie is whatís wrong. A priest is still a man, with wants and needs, however much he tries to deny that.† How can a priest talk about the love of God or Jesus, when he doesnít love himself?† Vidal leads Tom on a journey of self-discovery.† Itís realistic, and doesnít pull punches. Coming out inevitably is harder in a rural area, where thereís no gay community for support, at a time pre-Internet when just getting information was difficult.

Sex in the novel is that understated, often lyrical eroticism that is often more effective than explicit writing verging on porn.† You can feel the sexual tension between Tom and Vidal.† Itís a desperate, furtive liaison by necessity.† There are highly charged scenes, wickedly sexy even if you need to fill in the blanks.

You donít need personal faith to enjoy this novel.† Iím a confirmed non-believer who was totally absorbed by Father Tom Meekerís struggle to reconcile awakening sexuality with his vocation as a priest. Society makes men like Tom and Vidal act deceitfully, to hide their true faces.† We get a strong sense of the priestís inner turmoil and spiritual conflict, having to say mass and give communion knowingly in a state of mortal sin.

Itís a beautiful love story, with an ending that hits just the right note of hope for the future.† The characters are so finely drawn you forget theyíre fictional creations. †Thereís a whole cross-section of small town Western life, traditionally full of examples of gay love, since the lonesome, early days of the wild frontier.† Two old ladies, lifetime companions, though the term lesbian was never used.† Will and Larry, the rodeo ranchers, contemporary examples of Dakota and Bennie.† Quietly getting on with life, no oneís business what they do behind closed doors.† Although moral guardians like loathsome Mrs. Shoup do their best to stir up trouble.

Vidal used to be a fancy dancer, with full costume, an Indian ceremonial dance that made him feel free.† The novel shows that all gay people have found a way to be fancy dancers, with a richly expressive culture thatís part of the diversity of human experience.

Itís harder for us now in light of revelations about homosexuality and child abuse in the Catholic church to believe in Tomís essential innocence.† Surely parents today no longer shove their boy children at priests hoping the desire for a vocation will rub off.† And his optimism about the future for priests like himself within the church is sadly at odds with current church orthodoxy. Iíd be very interested in a sequel, to see where Tom Meeker is now, nearly 30 years later

Buy The Fancy Dancer from Amazon UK here.

Back to Fiction Review Index