Proof of Angels: A Novel by Mary Curran Hackett
Paperback, 320 pages
Published November 4, 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Buy Now: Indigo—Indiebound—Amazon
Note: As a tour host selected by TLC virtual book tours, I received a complimentary copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are completely honest and completely my own. Please also note that any quotations used here are from an advanced, uncorrected review copy.
Proof of Angels is the story of a firefighter named Sean Magee. He grew up in New York city, but moved to Los Angeles to get away from the pain of his past. While fighting a fire, something happens, and Sean makes a promise to God. After the fire, Sean’s life changes. Again. Now he has to keep his promise. He has to be a better man. Now he must come to terms with his past—all the things he has run away from. And it’s not going to be easy. But he has been given a second chance, and he’s not going to mess it up.
Sean’s family life has not been easy. He lost both his parents too young, and then his nephew, who was like a son to him. In the past he’d turned to alcohol to make the pain go away. Now that he’d given up that vice, he threw himself into his work:
“For as long as Sean could remember, his life had been bookended by these two desires: fire and God. The former he believed he’d inherited from his father, a firefighter like him, and the latter from his mother, a devout Irish Catholic. … He thought, however irrationally, that being close to fire, close to a higher power, that he would somehow find his way to them both again.”
While fighting a fire, Sean gets trapped and badly burned. Through what he believes to be the guidance of an angel, he finds his way out. He, however, must jump from a three storey window to be free of the flames. It’s through the help of his friends that he begins the road to recovery. It’s a reciprocal arrangement: They help him, and he, in turn—with his newly positive outlook—helps them too.
In the first half of the book, Sean’s thoughts and conversations are uplifting—as I think they are meant to be. However, as the story goes on, the conversations and relationships seem to remain on that same level. Instead of using those key relationships to show us how Sean’s experience has changed his life, the author continually tells us, and that soon becomes tiresome. Even halfway through the book I didn’t feel like I knew the characters. I felt like I knew about them from being told about them, but I never felt like I got to experience anything with them. My knowledge of them felt superficial at best, making it difficult to connect with them and feel invested in their stories.
The main theme of the story is second chances. This is immediately apparent when Sean survives the fire. Instead of continuing in this somewhat subtle vein, the author repeatedly reinforces this theme in almost every conversation. The characters are always explaining themselves and it gets tiring. There is nothing wrong with the intention, but the execution could have used some subtlety. Sean is always doling out his advice and what he thinks to be the meaning of life. There is nothing wrong with this at its core, and there is nothing wrong with any of the things he says. However, it would be one thing if these were just the occasional nuggets of wisdom. But because they happen so often, they lose any power.
“Because, Tom, I care about you. You’re my friend, like it or not, and I care. I need you to see what I see. I need you to see that promises matter, people matter, second chances matter. I need you to see your patients for more than their broken bones and atrophied muscles and the work they need to do to prove themselves to you. I need you to see them as possibilities. As hope. As light. I need you to see that you survived for a reason, too. It wasn’t just to work. It was to be a husband to your wife; a father to your girls; a friend to me, James, and Libby; a saviour to many people who struggle everyday to get up and keep walking. I need you to see that you matter Tom. You do, too.”
There is nothing inherently wrong with this speech. However, this book is peppered with ones just like it. Not every conversation has to involve a life changing revelation. And that is what this book doesn’t seem to understand. The characters and the plot themselves aren’t bad—but they become overshadowed by this need to explain everything, leaving little room for them to grow in any meaningful way. If you whittled away some of the dialogue and let the characters show themselves, this could be a good book. However, as it is, for me it unfortunately missed the mark.
About The Author
Mary Curran Hackett is the mother of two children and is married to Greg Hackett. She received an MA in English Literature from the University of Nebraska and a BA from the University Honors Program at Catholic University in Washington, DC. Born and raised in Danbury, CT, she has traveled extensively and lived in various places throughout the U.S., but her favorite place in the world is home with her kids, husband, and her stacks of books.
Find out more about Mary on her website, like her on Facebook, and connect with her on Twitter.
Mary’s Tour Stops
Tuesday, November 4th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, November 5th: Fuelled by Fiction
Thursday, November 6th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, November 10th: Chronicles of a Country Girl
Tuesday, November 11th: Mom in Love With Fiction
Wednesday, November 12th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, November 13th: Book by Book
Monday, November 17th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Tuesday, November 18th: A Night’s Dream of Books
Wednesday, November 19th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, November 20th: Walking With Nora
Thursday, November 20th: Cruising Susan Reviews
Friday, November 21st: Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, November 24th: Why Girls Are Weird
Tuesday, November 25th: A Dream Within a Dream
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.