Father, I Have Sinned: The Fylchworthy
Experience at Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears by James Aaron Parmelee Lulu
reviewed by Deborah Straw
"'You work in a very bad, and very dangerous school... Little boys come here afraid to tell the truth about their situations, and your so-called priests stonewall and pretend nothing is going on,' says a doctor at a local hospital."
Set in Bangkok, this novel/thriller centers on a ring of crooked educators, priests and other citizens involved in an international child trafficking ring Its author, Parmalee, is the director of an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) school in Thailand. Our Lady of Ubiquitous Tears is a Catholic boarding school in Bangkok where our narrator, Ig Fylchworthy, teaches. On site are statues of the Virgin Mary that occasionally spout what looks like blood, as they do during the investigation. (In Thailand, most people are Buddhist, with under l% Christian.)
What is quite fascinating are the landscape and cultural background of the book. The descriptions of Thai architecture, customs and habitats are alluring. For example, Fylchworthy, a divorced American who moved to Thailand where he learned to be an English teacher, says, "Come here once, and you are lost. That is, Thailand absorbs you. It benefits from who you are, and you benefit from who you become."
The names in the book can be confusing. For example, there are two men by the name of Yolkaby, one a teacher at the school and his older, criminal brother. Keeping a name list helps, although additional nicknames are often brought in later in place of their full names.
The mystery wends itself through murders, hospitalizations, incriminations; Catholics, the Interpol and the non-religious work together. The battle ends up at the Vatican. Life after death is contemplated. This book would doubtless most appeal to those who have spent time in Thailand or wish to do so. Of course, it is also extremely timely, considering the ongoing scandal within the Catholic Church.