Publisher: Ragbagger Press (2013)
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Undoubtedly one of the best new books I’ve read, The Prodigal by Michael Hurley is the novel I tell everybody they must read.  This award-winning novel is a story that you will not soon forget.

The Prodigal could be interpreted as a coming of age story, not of teenagers or young adults, but of the middle-aged. Mature adults who seem to have it all together, but grapple with insubstantiality.  Adults, who as arrows of Life’s bow, are missing their true target. These are the vividly drawn characters of Michael Hurley’s novel.

A riveting and socially relevant tale, The Prodigal is a contemporary marvel of an allegorical story of vices and virtues, of Achilles’ heels, and odysseys into the unknown. Hurley spans two thousand years, several oceans, and eternal love with adventure and captivation.

The protagonist, Aidan, finds himself stripped of all his privileged-trappings: professional kudos,  private clubs, top level connections, cash, even credit cards, due to a quick and nearly fatal bite from one of his own kind, an attorney of law. Aidan’s mentor sends him to the backwaters of Okracoke Island in North Carolina, a land  sequestered between the Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, to get his bearings.

Okracoke is often described as a geographical oddity with the folks to go with it. This quirky island has a single paved road and is only accessible by boat; it is so isolated that you can still hear traces of Elizabethan English spoken by the locals. It is as it has always been–a place treacherous enough to be a safe haven. It is here in Okracoke that Aidan meets the others whose fates and chances are bound up with his.

The tides, winds, and currents of life propel us along in directions that, unless we take notice and change our sails, might endanger us, indeed, ensnare our very souls.  Hurley captures the forces that swirl among us; sometimes with dangerous gale strengths, sometimes with stalling headwinds, and sometimes becalming. And then there are those magical times in our lives when we have the wind at our backs and our sails on a broad reach going faster than hull speed—our eyes on the prize. The Prodigal portrays these moments with powerful writing that is finely nuanced.

Hurley unfolds the timeless stories of transgression and forgiveness, of despair and hope, of damnation and redemption with brilliant subtlety in this riptide of a novel.

The Prodigal was awarded the Chanticleer Best Book of the Year Award 2013 and the Somerset Grand Prize for Literary Fiction.


[Reviewer’s Note:  If you love the taste of salt on your lips, the stars above you and the wind in your face, The Prodigal will engulf you in its myriad of temperaments as it races against time, the elements, treachery, and power.  As a sailor myself, I must say Hurley’s portrayal of `The Prodigal’ sailboat as a metaphor for the Divine Heavenly Host, Savior, and Spirit is pure genius.]