Derald and his mother settled in a suburb of Sacramento, while his dad continued moving to wherever the Army assigned him. After high school, Derald enrolled in the community college where he took a course in creative writing. His colleagues and fellow students found him too young and naïve to write credibly, and the criticism caused him to put aside his aspirations. After graduating from community college, Derald transferred to U.C. Davis where he majored in American Studies and became active in the campus Christian program.
During the time he was active in that program, he received what he interpreted as a call to the ministry, but upon graduating from U.C. Davis, he found himself without the funding necessary to pursue seminary studies. After working for about a year-and-a-half, he had saved enough to continue his studies, and enrolled in Phillips Graduate Theological Seminary in pursuit of a Masters of Divinity Degree. While pursuing this degree, he became disillusioned, perceiving the church atmosphere to be a hotbed of politics and competitive showmanship.
A few years later, Derald pursued a Masters Degree in Library Science. He earned the degree, but found library jobs to be quite scarce, so he took an administrative support job, this time with the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority, where he's been for the past twenty-six years.
Derald continued freelance writing, and at the age of forty, decided he had done enough living to lend credibility to fiction writing. He has since been able to have four of his short stories published, along with non-fiction articles, and, while now closing in on sixty, is about to bring his first novel into print. Derald still lives in the Bay Area of northern California and enjoys playing his banjo in bluegrass and old time jam sessions.
The story is conveyed in the first person through the eyes of Ishmael O'Donnell, an observant young man who wrestles with familial dysfunction, possession by the spirit of his long-dead twin brother, and a quest for purification from both.
The book chronicles the events that lead up to his seeking out seminary as a means of attaining this purification. Upon his arrival at seminary and his three year journey through the curriculum, he finds himself engulfed in an unending torrent of duplicity, impertinence, and societal abnormalities within a communal setting of characters so driven, tenacious, over-the-top, and supercilious, it hurts.
The mocking inner voice of Ishmael's twin reverberates louder and louder as he desperately tries to come to grips with what is taking place about him, while discovering who he is within the confines of a cloistered setting he finds to be inundated with its own unique form of madness.
And when he finally does obtain the key to his purification... but such things are not revealed second hand.
A riveting and enthralling book which captures the imagination and beliefs of the reader, as the character Ishmeal O'Donnell takes on his journey through the ministry.
Having an army officer for a father, his formative years are spent moving around thus making it difficult for Ishmael to find out where he really belongs. Another major influence in his life is the fact that his twin brother died young and Ishmael believes he has entered his spirit and soul and lives on within him. His fathers dominant influence makes Ishmael turn away from a career in the army and he chooses to join the ministry to find himself. On joining the ministry he discovers that on one of his fathers deployments, he fathered a child which pushes Ishmael deeper into his studies.
On arriving at the retreat and meeting the other scholars, the author brings to life all the situations and characters, the happily married couple, the single girls, the married couple who get divorced, the playboy and the alcoholic, these can be seen anywhere throughout the world and reading the book the reader can relate (that so and so from....) and follow their individual stories.
The studies, teachings and placements that each of the characters have to achieve is described very well. During the seminars and teachings the questions not only test Ishmael beliefs but the readers as well and answers some of the questions to what is important to each individual.
During his final phase at the ministry his peers decide that due to his medical conditions he would be unreliable in the ministry which rocks his world to its roots. He decides to leave and take up a clerical post. His mother becomes seriously ill and on his visit to her she gives him some money to be taken to the woman of his fathers child. On visiting he finds out that the child is being brought up by the grandparents as the woman had died. Ishmael then founds out the child is named after his twin brother.
On leaving the house he comes across a stray dog which he decides to adopt. The dog starts to sense a change in Ishmael and demands, that by pushing her nose under his hand, he must stroke her. Ishmael realises that stroking the dog and showing it love all the bad thoughts and stresses go away. He is again comforted by the dog when at his fathers funeral the half-brother turns up in full military uniform and salutes.
Through the feelings and emotions that Ishmael receives from the dog, it is a lesson that the dog did not ask for anything but gave everything in order to say thank you . A lesson for us all, which is what our Lord Jesus wanted us to do.
Remember Dog backward spells God.
An excellent read.