The Prodigal: Mike Hurley
A young couple longs to become free from the bonds of those that seem to bind them. Flashing back to the 1800’s we smell the air of the salty sea, envision the bodies of two young people, that seem drawn to each other like a magnet to a piece of metal as they find their way to freedom. A father mourns the loss of his child as she and her young lover leave the confines of their town and steal aboard The Prodigal sailing to away from those that tried to stop them. Against her fathers wishes a young girl and a boy she hardly new fell prey to the wiles of love, their destiny uncertain and left leaving many angry tears of sorrow in their wake.
Aiden Sharpe awakens on Okracoke after sleeping on the beach. Covered with sand, disoriented and unsure of his surrounding he seems overridden with doubt, his mind unsure of where he has been and his memory scant of where he was the night before and the events that transpired bringing him to this very spot. As his eyes become acclaimed to the sun, the face of the ocean and the beach an unclothed woman appears and directs him to a bottle of wine and a cover-up to house his also unclothed body. Reminding him that two miles down is a rented cottage where he was supposed to be staying, the events that follow as we get to know this lawyer from Raleigh will change the dynamics of the story and our perception of him greatly. The woman on the beach seems as the author relates ageless and her manner quite spellbinding. The Prodigal is the ship that the two young lovers stole as the story begins and comes full circle in the present as it resurfaces. Aidan Sharpe will travel in many different circles and worlds before all is finally said and done. Appearing to be lost within him and having little or no direction when we meet him something will change all that when he returns home. A lawyer whose talent was quite well known and whose ability to handle case bar none was exceptional, is now silent, living in an empty vacuum with a career that no longer exists. As the lovers sail the raging sea and find their destiny yet were never heard from again so will Aidan find himself as he sails through life beginning with a two items left by someone in the beach and a landscape described by the author that will take your breath away.
Father Marcus O’Reilly is Catholic priest whose childhood although riddled with strife and whose father was an alcoholic found his calling in the priesthood. Settling in this small hippie town, Ocracoke, working as a boat yard hand as a young child, the priest’s life can be compared to the frothy waves of the open sea. As the characters begin to intertwine we meet not only Aidan but also a young woman called Sarah who washes p on the ocean, and finds herself within the walls of the church with Father Marcus.
Honor Beckett and Boyce Stannard work with Aidan Sharpe and are the reason why he is in his present state. All three staying on Ocracoke and all three so drunk they can barely stand up. But, when Aidan washes up on the sand and finally finds his way back to the cottage where they are staying he suddenly realizes that something in his life might need to change.
Secrets, hidden fears and loneliness fill the minds and hearts of Aidan, Marcus and Sarah. The author reveals story as we learn her tie to Marcus, the midnight swims that often cause many to complain and the final outcome of her being evicted from the church and sort of exiled to live on a boat that the priest purchased. No one knows who she is and some have given her the name the Gypsy Queen. With her intense need to keep her world and domain neat, her draw to the sea or water and her devotion to weekly mass, this young woman is a mystery within a mystery. Bobbi Baker met Aidan Sharpe when he entered the mini mart where she works. But, her story is shared with readers as we learn about her failed marriages, the jealousies of many women towards her and the causes of her divorce. Drinking was the refuge but the AA meetings run by Father Marcus her salvation. Which brings out another secret that is revealed about our priest and the hidden treasures buried in the sand that his dog finds in order to give him some solace. But, Marcus, Bobbi and Sarah seem linked by one thing: the draw of the sea, the calm of the waves and the smell of salt in the air.
Forgiveness, finding themselves and a place in the world that they all feel safe this story is quite compelling and often times readers might just want to go for a swim on a starry night. The water is the draw and the characters moods seem to change like the weather. Aidan Sharpe is known for his legal prowess and has earned the trust of five major hospitals handling their malpractice cases and keeping them out of the news. Hearing the voices of Boyce and Honor we learn of a serious oversight or mistake that might cost the firm. Not informed about an impending trial date for a wrongful death case Boyce is in more than just panic mode when he goes off on Honor. Blaming her for not telling him, not informing the doctors and witnesses involved the reader will now see why Aidan is such a pro. With one phone call, finesse and confidence he handles the situation with ease.
Will he find solace there? Truths come out when lies precede them as Aidan learns. But, one mistake will cost him it all and when his license is suspended as is legal and moral ethics are in question why does he decide to return to Ocracoke? When a friend blatantly suggests that the answer to his problems would be solved if he returns to Ocracoke, works with Father Marcus and sort out his life, at first he becomes irate and then realizes this could be the answer to starting over again.
Things start to unravel when we meet Molly the tugboat operator, hear her story, and understand her relationship with the Father and the elusive Sarah. The discovery of the Prodigal is quite enlightening as Aidan and his new friend Ibrahim who works with him in the boatyard meet up with some rough guys out to cheat Molly of the money they owe her for being towed. Fired from their jobs and sort of told they would never be allowed to work there again, they find a boat named the Cygnet which might turn out to be the ancient ship the Prodigal. Learning more about Molly, her roots and her story draws readers closer to Sarah, thought to be a Gypsy and their run in with a young man named Rowdy and his cohorts.
The Prodigal has resurfaced and Marcus learns important information about the ship and its connection to the one that went missing in 1851. Could it be that the ship housed a piece of the cross of the thieves who crucified Jesus? Could it be the real relic from the cross of the thief who was forgiven by God? We learn more about this ship and its origin while Aidan seeks more information. Learning about a victory race against the America the same year it sent missing gives readers much pause for thought. The friendship between Sarah and Molly steps up but then something happens to change all that. The Bel Sogno the boat Sarah lived on disappeared but how? Is she tied to the two young people that fled on this ship at the start of our story? Could Sarah be this young girl?
The race is on to find out more but Aidan is determined to beat Rowdy at his own game as he decides to enter the boat race where the Prodigal will try to beat the boat he and his friend were repairing: Invictus. Can they beat Rowdy Ponteau when the odds are against them? Which boat is better and faster? What about having faith?
The history the author reveals behind the cross and the mission to bring back artifacts of the life of Christ are revealed in Chapter 23. The true cross was not found but had been taken away and what was for sale, to the highest bidder in the “bazaars of Jerusalem were the relics of the crosses of the two thieves who died at Calvary.” They were both found or uncovered by Emperor Constantine but he left the thieves crosses behind. The cross of one thief or the penitent thief and the other whom Jesus felt would be spending Paradise with him were left behind. One cross thought to have the power to save the “the souls of the damned.” The story elaborates even more about the king and his two sons, which enlightens readers to the link between the America and the Prodigal, the race that was never officially recorded and the final result. After hearing the story told by his friend, Father Marcus is now determined to revitalize the Prodigal/Cygnet and race her against the Invictus. Fixing the ship, getting a crew and then registering for the race what happens next will excite readers. Faith, loyalty, hope, love and the draw to the sea are just some of the themes that run through this expertly crafted book is up for a prestigious literary award. The Prodigal was chosen as a finalist, along with four other novels by reviewers for the 2013 annual BookBundlz Club Pick contest.
Things really spark when someone from his past becomes part of his present. One man named Gaylord Dempsey would prove his loyalty and friendship to Aiden and the Father when the author reveals the truth behind the wrongful death suit and who caused Aidan’s legal demise. There is much more as the race is about to start but not before we learn more about Bobbi, her feelings for Aidan and her low self-esteem that causes her to take on situations that are destructive. Aidan, Molly and Ibrahim race the clock to complete what Father Marcus started. An ending filled with tension and the roar of the ocean and the smell of salt in the air so vivid like a bottle of perfume that has been sprayed many times and the scent everlasting.
A final scene that will take your breath away and the hidden truths behind many events will surprise you. A story told in many voices and an author who envelops the reader by so vividly describing the race, Aidan’s fears, the dangers encountered and the final ship that crosses the finish line. An ending so dramatic only author Mike Hurley can deliver it. Where is the Prodigal? You decide after reading this book.
Fran Lewis: reviewer