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Synopsis

"He began to cry. One moment he was calmly drying his hands on a piece of brown paper toweling, and the next his face was contorted with misery, a child’s hopeless grief made all the more grotesque by his forty-year-old features. A geyser of self-pity had erupted inside him, carrying with it all the pain and humiliation he had not allowed himself to feel at his mother’s betrayal or Martha’s cold rejection. He was a friendless middle-aged priest, more than halfway to the grave, errand-boy for a senile monsignor who cared more about squeezing an extra few dollars out of his bovine congregation than about ministering to the sick and poor."

Father Walther's Temptation is the story of a man sheltered too long by his profession, "tempted" by life itself. He has been a Catholic priest for more than a decade, dispensing sacraments, entertaining the blue-haired ladies of the Rosary Society and running a parish for a senile monsignor and his dictatorial housekeeper. Even the annual visit to his mother looms as just another disagreeable chore. But when his aging Ford gives up the ghost on the New Jersey Turnpike, the breakdown starts a chain of events and chance meetings that threatens to turn his life upside down.

Befriended by an auto mechanic and his wife, the priest learns something about the nature of irredeemable grief. Molested by a simple-hearted country girl, he feels not so much violated as foolish. When he finally gets to visit his mother, he finds not a sexless, selfless widow but a casualty of romantic exhaustion. His eventual nemesis turns out to be a woman determined to seduce not just the sexual man but the human being that has been so long denied. The project is a large order, and there is plenty of adventure along the way, much of it comic, some tragic, all engrossing.

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