Get 50% off Catholic Books & eBooks

Discover the Next Tolkien & O'Connor

Join Here for FREE to Never Miss a Deal

Find new favorites & Support Catholic Authors

Genre

Thriller, Young Adult, General Fiction

Audience

15 & Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2022

Themes

mass shooter, free will, temptation, moral theology, suffering, theology of the cross

 

Reviewed by

Courtney Guest Kim

In Shooting At Heaven’s Gate, Kaye Park Hinckley explores a topic that we urgently need to face, but which the public square has failed miserably to address: the trajectory of a man who suddenly decides to take a gun and kill a slew of people who may have no clear connection to him at all. This novel is a spiritual thriller in that we know very quickly who the perpetrator will no doubt be. The mystery here is the mystery of iniquity, and Hinckley sets out, through several interwoven story lines, to expose the small steps by which an innocuous boy might turn into a monstrous man.

 The lists of book discussion questions and quotes at the end make clear that the intent of this novel is to illustrate an explicitly Catholic understanding of free will, temptation and Theology of the Cross (“Suffering plus Faith equals Salvation.”). There is also a second storyline, whose intersection with the first kept me guessing till the end. This sub-plot describes the opposite series of choices and demonstrates that a materialistic paradigm, in which people are merely the product of their environments, cannot be true. Hinckley carefully details opposing trajectories—toward goodness and towards evil—and shows that suffering in itself cannot be the cause of evil, because in suffering, people can still choose for what is right and good. In fact, some take on more than their share of trouble, out of love.

Hinckley’s prose is reliably mellifluous, but in this story she endows with greatest eloquence the preacher-grandfather of the perpetrator. These two characters are clearly in the line of Hazel Motes and his grandfather from Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. We see the forceful preacher through the distorted memories of his devolving grandson. We realize that the grandfather attempted to inculcate righteousness in his progeny. We also find out that he gave a handgun to a little boy and pushed him in front of a couple of wild hogs, with orders to shoot. In a make-or-break paradigm, this boy evidently became one of the broken ones. Hinckley succeeds in showing that evil is not so much a thing in itself as the absence of things that should be there but are not. The ambiguous relationship between the perpetrator and his preacher grandfather was to me the most fascinating dynamic of the novel: the hazy background of a disintegrating human being.

However, younger readers will, I think, delight in the glaringly malevolent tempter (aptly nicknamed Mal!) who is foregrounded as the immediate mentor towards evil of the weak anti-hero. I plan to give this book to my ninth grader, because its careful parsing of the interior process by which a person can be led into evil—or choose goodness—is exactly the sort of resource that adolescents today so badly need. They are coming of age in a horribly evacuated culture. It is a daunting challenge to figure out how to live the Christian faith in this context, constantly made aware of grotesquely violent acts by public figures who seem determined never to examine the human heart. Kaye Park Hinckley has done us all a great service with this attempt to shine some light into a very dark and frighteningly powerful spiritual vacuum.

Get Catholic Books & eBooks for as little as $1 to FREE

Standing Strong by Theresa Linden

Keefe hides his call to the priesthood and no matter how much Jarrett tries he still gets into trouble. Can the brothers find their courage?

The Academy Saga: Book 1 By C.J. Daly  

A thrilling, yet clean, high school romance.

Outlaws of Ravenhurst, by Sr. M. Imelda Wallace, S.L.

The 10-year-old heir of a noble Scottish family must choose between his inheritance and his Catholic faith.

War Demons by Russell Newquist

Lots of soldiers have demons, but Michael’s follow him back home. And now a secret order of demon-slayers tell him he has to save the world?!

If Wishes Were Dragons By Karina Fabian

What happens when LARPing becomes a lot more real than a group of D&D players can handle?

The Book of Jotham by Arthur Powers

Experience Christ through the eyes of Jotham, his disabled disciple.

Nun of My Business by Karina Fabian

When a nun hires Vern to prove that a new pop song is evil, the dragon suspects his new client might be hiding something.

I am Margaret by Corinna Turner

A dystopian nightmare that asks what you really believe and how far will you go to defend it.

Roland West Loner by Theresa Linden

When his evil brothers lock Roland up in a dungeon he finds a locked box hiding a mysterious treasure.

The Bishop of 12th Avenue by Ray Lucit

A street kid gets ordained a Bishop in a post apocalyptic world. Talk about a shakeup in the priesthood.

Gevaudan Project

This fun monster story takes themes of God, man, and environmentalism to places deeper than any newsroom can go.

Hidden: Don’t Fear the Unseen by Verity Lucia

Clare Thomson wasn’t sure she believed in angels and demons – until she could see them.

Desperate Forest: The Forest Tales Series, Book 1 By Cece Louise

This RomCom fantasy adventure explores a princess discovering the realities of life outside of her kingdom and what true love is really made of.

Cinderella by Charles Perrault

The true story of the Catholic saint who inspired the myth of Cinderella

Best of 2020

Yes some good things DID happen this year- Catholic creators have not let turmoil stop their mission.

Death Cult by Declan Finn

St. Tommy continues his fight against the death cult, battling Voodoo priests and zombies along the way.

A Distant Prospect by Annette Young

Lucy has been broken by the horrors of polio and the war for Irish Independence. Can Australia offer her a new life and a new home?

Coven (Book 7 of St. Tommy Series): By Declan Finn

St. Tommy fights the CPS and a group of pagans who have taken over a military base.

A Hero for the People by Arthur Powers

Stories from the front lines of the Church’s mission to protect Brazilians farmers from theft and greed.

Earthquake Weather by Kevin Rush

The mist that settles over San Francisco hides the ugly parts of her world. Can Kristine find the courage to see with unclouded eyes?