Via Negativa: A novel (Paperback)
A heartfelt, daring, divinely hilarious debut novel about a priest who embarks on a fateful journey with a pistol in his pocket and an injured coyote in his backseat.
"A beautiful and meditative exploration of shattered faith." —Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
Father Dan is homeless. Dismissed by his conservative diocese for eccentricity and insubordination, he’s made his exile into a kind of pilgrimage, transforming his Toyota Camry into a mobile monk’s cell. Then he sees a minivan sideswipe a coyote. Unable to suppress his Franciscan impulses, he takes the injured animal in.
With his unexpected canine companion in the backseat, Dan makes his way west, encountering other offbeat travelers and stopping to take in the occasional roadside novelty (MARTIN'S HOLE TO HELL, WORLD-FAMOUS BOTTOMLESS PIT NEXT EXIT!). But the coyote is far from the only oddity fate has delivered into this churchless priest’s care: it has also given him a bone-handled pistol, a box of bullets, and a letter from an estranged friend. By the time Dan gets to where he’s going, he’ll be forced to reckon once and for all with the great mistakes of his past, and he will have to decide: is penance better paid with revenge, or with redemption?
About the Author
Daniel Hornsby was born in Muncie, Indiana. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Michigan, and an MTS from Harvard Divinity School. His stories and essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Electric Literature, The Missouri Review, and Joyland. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.
"A beautiful and meditative exploration of shattered faith. Daniel Hornsby follows a damaged priest's journey through the American heartland after a disturbing discovery shakes his belief in the church to which he has devoted his life. A quietly devastating book from an exciting new voice." —Brit Bennett, author of The Vanishing Half
"Hornsby's ruminative and God-haunted road trip novel is a hidden gem." —Buzzfeed
"A wonderful novel . . . [with] a great voice that is funny and sharp and compassionate and sometimes quite weird and beautiful." —Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author Redeployment and Missionaries
“[An] unorthodox road-trip novel. . . . Subtly and movingly, the novel teases out the uneasy relationship between loneliness and godliness. . . . The reckoning brings to the fore themes of guilt, grief, shame and trauma. . . . Via Negativa takes some wonderfully mysterious byways.” —The Wall Street Journal
"A relevant, funny, earnest, eloquent book. . . . Full of theological insight. . . . It is also very funny." —America Magazine
“[A] promising, energetic debut.” —The New York Times Book Review
“What a terrific setup: a retired priest with more than enough on his mind—and heart—heads out on the road with a hurt coyote in the back seat. I was drawn in right away by the layered tones of this new voice, which was at once ruminative, and earnest, and sly. And by Hornsby’s courage in taking on an iconic American genre. The novel reminded me again that the only true way home is by the longest and most wayward route.” —Peter Heller, author of The River
“[A] novel of troubled faith and unlikely connection.’” —The New Yorker
“Engrossing. . . . [A] funny debut novel about guilt. . . . [Charles] Portis' dry humor and the spirit of his eccentric and endearing idiot-protagonists feel very much alive in Father Dan. . . . His voice is what draws you in and wins you over. It's the heart and the motor of the book.” —National Catholic Reporter
“Masterful. . . . Hornsby’s vivid description . . . would make Hemingway smile.” —The New York Journal of Books
“Via Negativa . . . resembles Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. . . . Hornsby balances the dark moments with good-spirited comedy. . . . Via Negativa is a remarkable performance in narrative voice, a convincing rendition of late-life wisdom captured in evocative sentences.” —Sean Kinch, Chapter 16
"Daniel Hornsby's Via Negativa is a novel of daring possibilities. As brief as it is, its scope is as large as an epic as it tackles questions of theology, spirituality, and modernity, amongst others, in prose shot through with humor and grace. It is an assured novel waiting patiently to be noticed."
—Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities
“A truly transcendent road novel.” —The Millions
“Father Dan’s regrets and doubts about his impact as a priest come through amid acerbic humor, and the kinetic prose keeps the melancholic, slow burn kindled throughout. Hornsby has got the goods, and his stirring tale of self-reflection, revenge, and theological insight isn’t one to miss.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“A beautifully crafted story. . . . Dealing with the scandals in the Catholic church, lifelong friendship, and regrets, Via Negativa is a striking debut that forces readers to consider what holds us back from action.” —Booklist