The Gospel of Winter

 The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015

The Gospel of Winter
by Brendan Kiely
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015


As sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s fractured family disintegrates around him, he searches for solace in a few bumps of Adderall, his father’s wet bar, and the attentions of his local priest, Father Greg— the only adult who actually listens to him.

As Christmas hits, Aidan’s world collapses in a crisis of trust when he recognizes the darkness of Father Greg’s affections. He turns to a crew of misfit friends to help make sense of his life: Josie, the girl he just might love; Sophie, who’s a little wild; and Mark, the charismatic swim team captain whose own secret agonies converge with Aidan’s.

The Gospel of Winter maps the ways love can be used as a weapon against the innocent—but can also, in the right hands, restore hope and even faith. This unflinching and courageous debut novel is one that tears away the masks people wear and shows us that in truth, there is power. And real love.



“In a lyrical and hard-hitting exploration of betrayal and healing, the son of a Connecticut socialite comes to terms with his abuse at the hands of a beloved priest.... The story is set in late 2001 and early 2002, and the news stories of the time—the 9/11 attacks, the capture of John Walker Lindh, and eventually, devastatingly, the Catholic Church abuse scandals—are woven in easily and seamlessly. Each of Aidan’s relationships is carefully and subtly drawn, revealed slowly through Aidan’s elegant, pained and often circumspect narration. Often bleak, eventually hopeful and beautifully told.”

— ★ Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2013) Starred Review


“Kiely’s gutsy debut addresses abuse in the Catholic Church. The year is 2001, the events of 9/11 are only two months old, and 16-year-old Aidan’s family is falling apart.... The scandal among the Boston archdiocese in early 2002 gets Aidan’s town’s attention, and when it does, Aidan’s feelings of rage and denial and fear come to a head. This is challenging, thought-provoking material, presented in beautiful prose that explores the ways in which acts rendered in the name of love can both destroy and heal.”

— Booklist (December 15, 2013) Starred Review


“Kiely’s impressive debut takes a controversial topic—sexual abuse in the Catholic Church—and addresses it head-on with sensitivity and finesse. Sixteen-year-old social outcast Aidan Donovan is from a privileged but broken family.... Setting his story against the shaky aftermath of 9/11 and the scandals that surfaced in the Boston archdiocese in early 2002, Kiely hits his mark with a sickening portrayal of Father Greg and those who let his behavior continue. But it’s the combination of Aidan’s vulnerability, denial, and silent rage that makes the novel so distressingly vivid and real.”

— Publisher's Weekly (October 21, 2013) Starred Review


“Boston native Brendan Kiely’s powerful debut,The Gospel of Winter, contains sentences that linger like patches of shadow-covered ice.... Sixteen-year-old Aidan Donovan’s story is saturated with pain, longing, and his desperate need to be sure of anything.”

— The Boston Globe (February 22, 2014)

“The Gospel of Winter is a light shining bright on a shamefully dark part of our psyche and history.... Profound, revealing, and expertly told, The Gospel of Winter is a must read for all.”

— Teen Librarian's Toolbox (January 16, 2014)


“‘We live in a world of consequence and effect,’ says the 16-year-old narrator of The Gospel of Winter, a book that will be as satisfying to literary readers as it will to young adults. This is a novel that captures the pulse of a contemporary wound, a truth that needs to be told about the shameful issue of abuse within our society. It is also a novel that examines the faultlines of love, family, adolescence, faith and belonging. Brendan Kiely has written a novel that is both unflinching and redemptive.”

— Colum Mccann (NYT Bestselling Author and National Book Award Winner for Let the Great World Spin)


“The Gospel of Winter marks Brendan Kiely’s auspicious debut as a novelist. Kiely deftly captures the difficulty of becoming oneself in a world filled with contradictions and mixed messages, artfully drawing us into the complex story of a young man’s search for identity, for comfort, for faith. Aidan Donovan’s struggle to find truth lives in all of us—his pain and hope are both resonant and transformative.”

— A.M. Homes (Author of May We Be Forgiven and Winner of the Women's Prize for Fiction)


“Brendan Kiely’s finely tuned debut accomplishes something rare—it pulls you into its main character’s pain and truth without letting you forget how beautiful the world, and people, can really be. An emotional coming of age story that you won’t soon forget.”

— John Corey Whaley (Winner of the Printz and Morris Awards for Where Things Come Back) 


“The Gospel of Winter comes to us in full flower, a rich, complex, wise, beautifully written novel and a compelling read.”

— Frederic Tuten (Author of Tintin in the New World