Novel offers raw depiction of priest’s dark history

The Chronicle-Herald

Published March 28, 2014

Writing and researching Petitot must have been a journey of constant discovery for author Susan Haley.

The weighty tome is the product of almost a decade of work, and tells the story of Emile Petitot, a man historically known in Canada for his work as a priest, a missionary, a writer and an ethnographer.

But it just takes a quick flutter of fingers on a keyboard to learn that he has a remarkably dark history. According to a variety of interviews with Haley, including one with the Northern Journal, she was surprised to discover that the Canadian explorer was also a pedophile and subject to symptoms of a bipolar disorder.

This could be why she chose to tell the story the way she did. Her storytelling is fluid, bouncing back and forth from the 1800s to modern day, and it’s told through the eyes of a few different characters, each one affected in their own way by the mad priest. Luckily, the plot has the main character, Marcus, to keep it on track.

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