Torn Siblings, in Search of Spirit

Reading We Will Listen For You is an invitation to look beyond the stone walls of churches and gape in wonder at the world and the unknowable vistas beyond.

At 112 pages, Nick Ripatrazone’s new novella, We Will Listen For You, can be read in under an hour. But you won’t want to rush through it. It’s deep, and it’s dark.

Born and raised in Whippany, Ripatrazone lives in Lafayette and teaches English at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School. Though still in his early 30s, he has now produced two novellas, two books of poetry, one of essays on the work of three Catholic writers, and a short story collection (Good People, published in September). “Ripatrazone is enormously gifted,” the novelist Jayne Anne Phillips wrote of the poems in 2011’s Oblations.

In the new novella, three adult siblings, after the death of their parents, gather in the home left to one of them, Laine, by their mother. Laine accepts her sister, Pamina, and Pamina’s husband, Rolf, a schemer, into the home because, she says, “sisters owe sisters” and also because the couple’s house burned down: “scorched to the foundation. Faulty wiring, no insurance.” The third sib, Aaron, a priest, returns after fleeing his parish in New Hampshire. With Laine’s help, he erects a church of his own in a barn near her house. Rolf serves as an usher in the new ministry. Everyone’s intentions are pure—except Rolf’s. Things do not end well.

The religious issues in We Will Listen For You run through all Ripatrazone’s work. Before he married and began teaching, he planned to become a Jesuit. The depth of thought and analysis Jesuits are known for give Ripatrazone’s writing its strong spine. Reading We Will Listen For You is an invitation to look beyond the stone walls of churches and gape in wonder at the world and the unknowable vistas beyond.

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