O’Brien writes with a strong undertone of mysticism. His works are deeply Catholic, in the sense that he writes from a Catholic worldview, not in the sense that his stories have to do with priests and bishops, etc. Ordinary people live lordinary lives, but with extraordinary responses when challenges arrive.
O’Brien also is notable for his willingness to present good as good and evil as evil, without smearing the one into the other. He may present something as beautiful in merely worldly terms, but by the time he is done with you, as a reader, you see what the difference is between that which is mired in the world (and its prince) and what is directed to heaven and the King. There is also a strong Marian thread in his books.
I have been marking passage in the book about which I thought, “I have to share that with the readers!”
And from a review on the Vivificat site:
Michael O’Brien’s book, The Father's Tale: A Novel, was brought to me as a healing balm, as just the medicine that the doctor ordered.
The Father's Tale: A Novel is the story of a man about my age, father of two sons like I am, and one of them went astray. The father, Alexander Graham by name, a reclusive widower and bookstore keeper, resigned to die. He left everything behind, his bucolic Canadian town, his shop, his friends, and his eldest son, starting a desperate race against time and distance to bring his youngest son, his stray lamb, back into the fold.
Spanning Great Britain, Finland, the entire length of Russia and beyond, Mr. O’Brien gives us a tour de force that includes music, poetry, revolution; as well as deepest darkness and incredible light. We see Alex Graham’s heart expand, then break, and then expand into greater love.
Two takeaways from this book, the first one a lesson taught also in several other books by Mr. O’Brien which I have read, and that is that the battle against evil is not going to be won by any human means at our disposal. No one knows can begin to image how the battle will be won, but it will be won. In fact, it has been won already.
The second lesson reminds me of words spoken by the Francis character in Brother Sun, Sister Moon: there no more sons, there are no more fathers. But Alex Graham went deeper into his meditation, discovering that fathers will become sons and sons, fathers and above all of them, Our Father who is in heaven.