The Priest Fainted

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE PRIEST FAINTED is less a novel than a series of interconnected vignettes that explore what it is to be female and of greek heritage. Catherine Temma Davidson uses ancient greek mythology to explore life as a Jewish-Greek American woman, but then expands on this subject to learn more about her mother and grandmother’s lives. At the beginning of every chapter Davidson tells a story out of greek mythology, such as the story of Artemis or Ariadne, or a story about something traditionally greek, such as a recipe, a subculture, or an archeological treasure. From this beginning she moves to a personal story of the year she spent in Greece or she recreates her mother’s history. The author only knows bits and pieces of both her grandmother’s and mother’s history and so fills in the memory gaps with ample imagination.

The most interesting part of this novel is that after telling the story of a myth, Davidson will rewrite the story with her own interpretation. She tells it in a thoroughly modern and female way. For example, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. In her retelling of the tale Davidson questions Eurydice’s desire to be rescued from Hades. She argues that Eurydice may have liked Hades because there she had a modicum of freedom instead of having to be a silent, subservient wife to the heroic Orpheus.

Self-discovery in terms of personal and world history is a main theme of this novel. Davidson does a good job of describing her personal and familial tales, but she falls short of connecting the personal experiences to the overall female experiences that she takes such care to detail at the beginnings of her chapters.