The Shoes of the Fisherman has lots of wear left

When Morris L. West published The Shoes of the Fisherman in 1963, the idea of a pope who could be both spiritual leader and international activist created a sensation. Since the book was first published, fiction has become fact.

As the novel opens, a pope has just died. The cardinals choose Kiril Lakota, a Slav who spent 17 years in Siberian prisons and labor camps after World War II. He owes his release to the Communist leader of Russia.

As Pope Kiril settles into his new role, Catholics in Rome go on with their lives. Jewish convert Ruth Lewin is working among pro-communist Sephardic Jews to compensate for having survived the holocaust. Newspaper correspondent George Fisher is waiting for the church to annul his mistress’ marriage to a homosexual government official. Vatican newspaper editor Campeggio is stewing over his son’s relationship with that same official. Eventually all these people’s paths cross that of Pope Kiril. whose elevation to the Triple Tiara hasn’t changed his essential values.

Although The Shoes of the Fisherman may sound more like historical fiction today than it does like invention, it remains a fine novel. The plot moves surely, characters are well-drawn, descriptions are precise and lively, and West’s theme transcends historical boundaries.

If a man is centered upon himself, the smallest risk is too great for him, because both success and failure can destroy him. If he is centered upon God, then no risk is too great, because success is already guaranteed—the successful union of Creator and creature, besides which everything else is meaningless.

The Shoes of the Fisherman
by Morris L. West
William Morrow, 1963
374 pages
1963 bestseller # 1
My grade: B+
© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

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Linda G. Aragoni

I make big ideas simple for learners. In eight sentences, 34 words, I taught teens and adults to write competently. Now I'm writing guides to turn willing volunteers into great nursing home visitors.

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