Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blog Tour Book Review: Proof of Angels, by Mary Curran Hackett

Proof of Angels
Mary Curran Hackett
Trade Paperback,  320 pages
William Morrow Paperbacks
November 3, 2014
Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, 
Romance, Spirituality


From the critically acclaimed author of Proof of Heaven comes an unforgettable novel about hope, renewal, and the gift of angels among us—friends, family, lovers . . . and even mystical others—sure to touch your heart

Sean Magee is a firefighter—a hero who risks his own life to save others, running into dangerous situations few have the courage to dare. While fighting a horrific blaze, Sean becomes trapped by flames and is nearly overcome by smoke. Just when it seems that all is lost, he’s led to a window—by what he swears is divine intervention. And then he
 jumps . . .

. . . into a new life. For years, Sean has shut down his feelings, existing in a state of emotional numbness. Coming through that fire, he knows that he can no longer be that man whose his heart is closed to the world. But before he can face his future, he must confront his past and everyone in it: the family, the friends, the woman—and the love—he carelessly left behind.

My thanks to the author and TLC Book Tours
for a complimentary copy of
the book, in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions here expressed 
are my own.

When I finished this wonderful, uplifting novel, I did something I only do with some very, very special books: I hugged it to my chest, overwhelmed with happiness. That might elicit some eye rolling, but that's how I honestly felt. This book touched me very deep inside, and I love it when an author is able to do that. It  takes some remarkable literary skill to elicit this kind of response from a reader.

Now I desperately want to see the movie, because Proof of Angels certainly has a very cinematic feel to it. The plot slowly develops over the course of a year, and in  that period of time, the reader feels as if an entire lifetime has been lived.

This is such a beautifully written, character-driven novel! I know and love them all, but especially Sean Magee, the central character. Unfortunately, he doesn't think he's anything special, and has been running away from himself for a long time. It's only after the fire that almost takes his life that he begins to discover the wealth of feeling inside himself. It's only then, when he sees the light that leads him to a window, that he finally admits to himself what a mistake he made in leaving Chiara, the love of his life. Right then and there, he  promises to find her, to tell her how much he loves her.

The supporting cast -- for that is the way I think of them -- are just as wonderful as Sean. There's James, his fellow firefighter with the big heart, and preference for Thai food, Libby, the special dog trainer, who finds love in the midst of her own recovery from drug use,  and Tom, the slightly cynical physical trainer Sean's brother-in-law, a prominent cardiologist, hires for him.

Hackett does a great job of immersing the reader in the everyday lives of all her characters. James had been Sean's friend for a long time, but Libby and Tom come into his life because of the accident. The four of them develop a very special friendship, becoming more like family than friends. Hackett explores their inner worlds with sensitivity and detailed empathy. There are no major 'action scenes', as this is not that type of novel; instead, this is a loving, detailed examination of each character, of how their unique life circumstances have made them who they are. In the process, they learn to give support to each other. As Sean receives physical as well as emotional support from his friends, they in turn receive emotional support from him. All four friends give each other lessons of the heart.

The title of this novel doesn't refer exclusively to the winged,  supernatural variety of angel, as I had originally thought, but to earth angels, as well. Certainly Sean has been lucky enough to have three of them, while they, in turn, have also been lucky to have him as their own earth angel. Thus, the novel points to the various ways in which each one of us can be an angel in someone else's life.

Another great character -- and the fourth angel -- is Chief, the special dog Libby has trained to help Sean during his recovery process. Through his devotion to Sean, Chief becomes very special to the reader, as well. He's actually based on a real dog of the same name, owned by the author.

As the novel develops, Sean never loses sight of his goal. His whole reason for recuperating from his injuries is to travel to Italy so as to make amends to Chiara. Every small victory in his physical therapy brings him that much closer to the goal. Incurable romantic that I am, I cheered him on all the way!

The part of the book where Chiara appears is a pure delight. Hackett takes her readers to Florence, Italy, and the subtle allusion to "Romeo and Juliet" was not lost on me. The city is breathtakingly beautiful, with all of its historically important buildings, its light.....Here's a specially compelling passage describing Sean's reaction as he enters the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, for the second time in his life: "The vast open space filled with light and people made him feel that he was intimately connected to the divine architect, and all the men who'd made it, too, who worked for centuries to build the structure. It took thousands of men and women to build the structure, brick by brick, and none of them knew the lives they'd touch. Invisible to him now, the spirits of those people reached out and touched Sean as he walked. He just knew it."

I'm sure everyone knows by now what happens in Florence, and here's where I do have a minor complaint; the reunion between Chiara and Sean feels a bit too rushed. I would have wanted this part of the novel to last longer, as the two lovers get reacquainted with each other. They had been apart for eleven years, after all. But the novel's enchantment is to be found not only in its climax, but in the journey leading up to it. On the way to Italy, we have encountered some very special people who are angels to each other, who help each other to slay their private dragons because these have become their own dragons, too. 

This is a novel not only of love, hope, and redemption, but of light, as well -- inner as  well as outer light, and each reinforces the other.

To say that this novel has already become unforgettable to me is to affirm its transcendent beauty. Indeed, it is to affirm that there really are angels -- and they are where we least expect to find them.



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.


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  1. Oh wow this sounds like a really touching book even though I have to say I have never really read anything in this genre before! I love books that leave a big impression. Maybe I'll take a chance to explore and pick it up :)

    1. Hi, there!

      Yes, it definitely IS a very touching book, and I highly recommend it, not only to you, but to anyone who enjoys reading novels with a heart. I hope you do decide to get it and read it! I know you will LOVE it!!

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving such a nice comment!! : )

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this book, thank you for an amazing review. I cannot wait to check out this read ! :)

    Benish | Feminist Reflections

    1. Hi, Benish!

      You're very welcome for the review, and thanks for the compliment!! This is a GREAT read, and I know you'll enjoy it!

      Thanks so much for the comment!! : )

  3. I'm glad you loved this book! This concept sounds amazing, I haven't really read any books about firefighters. Great review as always! Going to look into this beautiful read, thank you for sharing :)

    Benish | Feminist Reflections
    Hardcover Copy of Betrayed Giveaway!

    1. Hi, and thanks again, Benish! Yes, this indeed a BEAUTIFUL read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading a very touching story with some mystical elements!! : )

  4. I'm so pleased that you loved this book so much. I had the chance to visit Florence years ago and I absolutely loved it - so beautiful!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

    - Heather J @ TLC Book Tours

    1. Hi, Heather!

      Oh, I would LOVE to see this book made into a movie! That's how much I enjoyed it!!

      I have long wanted to visit Italy, and most especially Florence, since that's where the story of Romeo and Juliet takes place.....

      You're very welcome for my participation!! I always enjoy being part of the tours held by TLC Book Tours!! : )


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