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Send comments to: JACK FRERKER

I loved Monksbane, especially the portions involving Fr. John's "crisis of faith". Two books that have ... impacted me are Neale Donald Walsh's "Conversations with God" and G. Michael Durst's "Napkin Notes: On the Art of Living". From the former, I've learned there is no good, no bad, no right, no wrong - just choices. And choices have consequences. From the latter - that our lives, for the most part, are lived out on a stage of our own creation (based on the aggregate of the choices we've made over the years); and that if we don't like the way it's going, we get to rearrange the stage (i.e., make different choices). I noticed some remarkable similarities in Monksbane!

Tom Zeinz, Ohio

I just finished "Monksbane". More than any other book you've written, this one applied a lot of intellectual energy into developing a full description of a priest's thought processes in dealing with a moral dilemma, pointing out the spiritual value of just being out in the woods, and exhibiting the degree to which a priest will go to protect others from perceived slights. Pursuing the regimen assigned by Peter included wonderful insights into how personal the translating of Bible verses can be, the hard work that is meditation, and how sometimes the best way to teach is to simply evoke curiosity.

I would have liked to know more about how Peter became qualified to give advice, more about the nature of the dead monk's case of Alzheimer's (imagine a dialogue where his dementia caused him to change his interpretation of the Bible into something fearful to demonstrate the "hell" of alzheimers), and I'd like to have seen the other monks, introduced early on, worked back into the story somehow. The voices of the individual monks were wonderfully differentiated and immediately recognizable. This is something you've always been good at.

I was disappointed by the monks' ignorance of peanut allergies (are they "cloistered" and thus "out of touch" ?), and by the confusingly abrupt resolution of Father Winterman's spiritual funk by (Father) Peter. Most importantly, you chose to show how the 3 older priests protected the careless newby from discovering his culpability in the old man's death, and resolved it in a coincidental act of confession. It might have been more dramatic if the young man HAD discovered his guilt, and been counseled out of his grief by Father Winterman who could have used what he'd just learned from Peter. The moral we're left with is confusing (perhaps because I'm not Catholic, so I'm not used to having a priest to "protect" me). Is honesty not the best policy? Are some people too fragile for the truth? Is ignorance sometimes better than coming to terms with your failure, despite the risks? (As it is, I'm afraid the young novice might just leave another dirty knife out for the next guy.)

I risk raising your ire with these comments because I believe you are uniquely qualified to someday evolve into the creator of a spiritual "Moby Dick". Your lifelong overview of hundreds of bare souls, many in their most explosive stages (college age), must have left you with a profound understanding of how the human animal survives. That's what I want…give me that insight. I need it to know myself, and I only have 30 years left!

I'm delighted to now have a vision in my head for what St. Martin's must look like. It sounds beautiful. We'll get out there to visit you sometime soon.

I can't wait for your next one!

Barry Halgrimson, Ohio

I graduated from St. Martin's College 24 years ago and I am also a catholic so I am very familiar with the school and the chapel. What I really enjoyed most about your book was your description of the school and its surroundings, this brought back wonderful memories about that time in my life. Secondly, I loved learning a little about the monks and what they do with their time. This is not an easy life that they have chosen. The book was very entertaining and I was sad when it ended. I am ready for more books by Jack Frerker.

R. Swanson, Olympia WA

I really enjoyed a CONNECTIONS and am liking MONKSBANE as well: well-written and thought provoking. Your messages help me with perspective in a very busy life.

J D Young, Florida

As I entered the "shop" door (of the Schaumburg IL Library) and faced the racks of books displayed with the covers facing outward, there was Monksbane on the first carousel staring at me. It is getting very prominent display in that library. I enjoyed reading the book very much (and) believe I could find my way around the monks' residence and surroundings from your detailed descriptions, and I truly understand, having lived on Whidbey Island for a couple of months, why you love living in the beautiful northwest.

Cynthia O'Neill, Illinois

I really enjoyed reading Monksbane. It was entertaining with golden tidbits of life lessons laced throughout it.

Ray Blacklidge, Florida

Monksbane is a thoroughly enjoyable book and the description of the beauty of St. Martin's and the surrounding area was lovely. Unfortunatly I have never been to the state of Washington, but reading Monksbane helped me further visualize the beauty that God has created in this world of ours .

Evelyn Mann, Carlyle IL

I am really enjoying your books. My brother ... got all 5 of them and sent them to me via my 97 year old mother as a present to me. The way that you write gives a human side to a priest that myself as a non-Catholic finds very engaging. I spent 1 1/2 years at St. Martins and your book Connections brings back many memories, all of which are very good by the way. I think that God is working through you in these books. In these times of despair your work points to hope and salvation in Christ without pounding people over the head ... Thanks again for your work. Jim Oliver, Washington L

I will use your book as reference. I am a psychiatrist who works with very difficult patients. I am also relatively well known in some areas of psychiatric research and spend much of my time training psychiatrists and other professionals. More importantly I am catholic and a father of 3 bright children that I need to educate. In the last 2 years I am trying to articulate the question of good and evil and my catholic faith with my views as physician and scientist. I think what the Catholic tradition calls "original sin" has a translation into the biological characteristics of the human brain. I saw a parallelism in your dialogue.

Jose de Leon MD, Kentucky

I really enjoyed your discussion in (CONSPIRACY) of the sacred nature of the confessional and a discussion not heard on TV as a simple "I can just avoid it by playing word games" explanation. The other discussion that was helpful to me was the discussion at the abbey in the northwest where the visiting Priest and his mentor ... discussed the concept of the mental side of sin.

I do not know if this is the niche you wanted to find, but I believe your books could fill a need for conversational discussion of these complex topics. As we become more of an informational society, maybe society needs to gain a better understanding of the educational side of your preparation and a priest and the on-going continuing education. I actually think RICA programs could use your books as introductions to topics or even to the program itself.

Bernard Jasper, California

I did enjoy the Monksbane CD. Your voice is wonderful to listen to. I don't normally buy books on tape or CDs because I am not an auditory learner. My passion was reading. I loved books, all varieties. I was especially fond of the Father Brown mysteries. Then about twenty years ago, I was diagnosed with the beginning of macular degeneration in my right eye. I am now legally blind in my right eye from the macular degeneration because I get double vision after a few pages, I no longer even try to read books. I had heard about your books a few years ago and wanted to read a Father John mystery, but reading is such a struggle that I didn't do it. Then I found out that the last one was on audio, so I ordered it. I am glad I did . Your descriptions of our beautiful state were appreciated. Thank you for a good listen.

Rose Russell, Washington

I love this mystery series - as readers, we get a well done mystery wound around small town life, with a tiny peek into the mental process of a working priest (the main character, Father Joh Wintermann) as seen through the eyes of a retired priest (the author, Father Jack Frerker).

I was drawn to this book in large part because of the Pacific Northwest setting (which is where I live). I was also drawn to it because the theme, in large part, concerns the retreat that Father Wintermann is on. I take this topic into consideration because this is something that I have thought of doing myself. I am a layperson, and non-Catholic, but I hold the belief that taking a "time out" from life specifically to contemplate is as necessary as normal vacation time is.

Aside from the wonderful descriptive passages concerning the Pacific Northwest landscape, the reader also gets a peek into the running of a monastery, and issues that are evolving in bringing in new trainees for the priesthood, and how they relate to the older priests.

The mystery relates to an older priest - but the outcome is not one that the reader sees coming! BTW - We also get the real picture behind monksbane - which is certainly not what I expected!

"Monksbane" is the fourth mystery novel in this series, featuring Father John Winterman, a diocesan priest. In this book, Father Winterman is on a retreat at a Benedictine monastery, seriously attempting to come to terms with what he believes to be the "injustice" of God. This relates to things that have happened within his own parish - deaths which he feels did not "need" to happen. He is assisted in his journey of discovery by one of the Benedictine monks,

On the first morning of his retreat Father Winterman comes across an elderly Benedictine monk, unconscious on the floor of the walkway between the abbey's main floor and the church. He calls for help, and the monk is taken to the hospital. The real question … how did this happen? And is someone from within the Benedictine community involved! Brother Robert was an older monk, a former teacher who was now dealing with Alzheimer's. He was a gentle soul, who choose to speak in very archaic English, which could get on the nerves of his fellow monks -especially the younger one. One more thing - Brother Robert also has a severe allergy to peanuts. Will this be his undoing?

I loved this story, in that it really is a story … actually, it is several stories, intertwined, held together by the mystery surrounding Brother Robert. We read about the Benedictine society, and see a bit of how it functions. We also read about the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, and how their connection with Priest Point Park in Washington State (a state that I have lived in for many years). We see that the generational gap exists in the religious world, just as it does in the secular world. We see the majesty that is the Pacific Northwest, and the place that Saint Martin's (the Benedictine University) plays in all of this.

What is important in this book is the relationship between the monks, between the monks and other religious orders, and the monks and lay people. Reading this book, one understands fully the concept of "seven degrees of separation".

Interspersed throughout the book is religious commentary - not overwhelming the mystery, but finding its proper place in it. I give this book high marks both as a mystery, and as a well thought out piece of religious commentary.

Bonnie Cehovet, Washington

I have read Monksbane and thought it was great. You did a wonderful job on it.

Kathy Moran, California

I had your book for two years and just read it. I found it inspiring and wanted to read more...

Anne De Sena, Virginia

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revised January 18, 2014 @ 9:49 am