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For Readers Age approx. 14+
Grades 10+

Bleeder: A miracle? Or bloody murder? - Review
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 Publisher's Summary:

Desjarlais, John. (2008) Bleeder: A miracle? Or bloody murder? Sophia Institute Press. ISBN: 978-1-933184-56-2. Publisher age recommendation: Adult fiction. Litland recommends age 16 through adult. Not recommended for younger advanced readers.

Publisher Description:  When classics professor Reed Stubblefield is disabled in a school shooting, he retreats to a rural Illinois cabin to recover and to write a book on Aristotle in peace. Oddly, in the chill of early March, the campgrounds and motels of tiny River  Falls  are filled with the ill and infirm -- all seeking the healing touch of the town’s new parish priest, reputed to be a stigmatic. Skeptical about religion since his wife’s death from leukemia, Reed is nevertheless drawn into a friendship with the cleric, Rev. Ray Boudreau, an amiable Aquinas scholar with a fine library --  who collapses and bleeds to death on Good Friday in front of horrified parishioners. A miracle? Or bloody murder? Once Reed becomes the prime 'person of interest' in the mysterious death, he seeks the truth with the help of an attractive local reporter and Aristotle’s logic before he is arrested or killed -- because not everyone in town wants this mystery solved...


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

While our protagonist is a skeptic of religion and the mystery which is the center of the story, his differences with those who believe otherwise never digress to denigrating the people or their beliefs. He is honest with his views and his actions support these, demonstrating integrity.  Wrestling with his own illnesses and depression without extreme self-pity, we feel his strong sense of perseverance to move on with life. He acknowledges his own mistakes; exercises control when tempted or in situations where he could easily lash out in anger. Finally, he also demonstrates respect for immigrant population to manage their own justice within their community; also perseveres against the prejudice found amongst some in community who object to their presence.

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

While portraying the distinct personalities of the priests, the author maintains their integrity of mission and work. Police authorities are realistic and adequate, not bumbling nor autocratic.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

These qualities are not necessary for the protagonist although extreme loyalty to his marriage and some to his brother help to fill in his identity. He remains incredibly loyal to his deceased wife and a healthy relationship with his brother. His brother’s loyalty to him in seeking his healing is keen.  While all that is left of his family is he and his brother, the sense of family is maintained nonetheless.

 Strong loyalty is shown amongst the immigrant population to care for their own, maintain justice, and defend their priest’s death.  

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”


Much of the story’s intrigue comes from the cloudy appearance of good and evil in its characters. We first see the stereotypes of good and evil: the overtly “faithful” church followers, the crowds of people wanting healing,  contrasted with a skeptical protagonist. As the existence of the cult within the church fills in, it becomes more difficult to determine who may be part of this evil threat outside of church services.  What is of God, and not of God, becomes a muddy picture. 

Outside of the religious community, we see the discontent when two cultures collide in the greater community: the town’s existing Caucasian residents vs. its growing Hispanic immigrant population.  Myths, reality, prejudices and taking justice “into own hands” create a dissonance that realistically portrays the difficulty discerning good and evil in day-to-day existence.  

Then there are the two distinctly different female characters: the home-town reporter and the Hispanic insurance agent. The first seems almost angelic, while the latter is tough as nails. Each represents part of their community. A person engulfed in the town’s prejudices could easily follow the wrong one. The author again gets well below the surface to show the true worth of the character. 

This story so easily weaves common behaviors and stereotypes together that, just like in real life, the reader could easily find himself falling for the deception and suspecting the “good guys”.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

The protagonist’s loyalty to his wife, and the moments they shared together, are touching in portrayal of true love and marriage. Good portrayal of adult’s regaining meaning in life.  

For older teen readers, parents should be aware of the following:

·        Mild profanity only occasionally early on in the story.

·        The character named Hadley is prejudice, and his bigotry serves to realistically show the inbreeding of attitudes that can develop in small communities . As such, an offensive word is used once to refer to Hispanic immigrants, and the contrast of opinions creating an “us vs. them” mindset in the community id demonstrated in other situations.

·        Sexuality: Very few instances as follows: Reed has a budding relationship with journalist Casey involving two situations of her enticing him sexually.  She is twice portrayed physically flirting with reference to her breasts. Finally, one scene is Reed’s reflection of an intimate moment with his deceased wife.  All situations serve the story to distinguish meaningful vs. inappropriate relations, adult chastity, and loyalty.

·        The main character, Reed, is a religious skeptic who voices views that reflect myths commonly found in secular society.

A Gnostic cult within the church community demonstrates how easily Truth can be perverted.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

Teen readers should already have a foundation in their family’s own faith beliefs with which to contrast to the secular myths and Gnostic views portrayed by antagonists in the story.  

A fast-paced mystery with rich characters and setting, highly recommended!


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