REVIEW: Body and Soul by Mario Dell’Olio

The Official Description: Raised in a strict Catholic family, Luca seemed destined for priesthood. His safe spiritual world is shattered after just one kiss with a college roommate. Luca enters a period of self-discovery as his journey of love opens his eyes to joy he never thought possible. Along with his new-found love comes unfathomable pain and self-doubt. Years later, a newly ordained bishop is at the pinnacle of his career when a chance encounter with a lover from his youth threatens to upend his prestigious career and comfortable life. His vow of celibacy and vocation are called into question as he struggles with his faith, loneliness, and need for love. How do these seemingly disparate characters come together to make sense of the unexpected twists and turns in their lives? How do they balance their bodily desires with their soul’s search for meaning?

My thoughts bit: This book is an interesting look at sexual identity and how it relates to a religious belief system. From a very young age, Luca had great spiritual beliefs. Very quickly, his life became centered around music. When he began his education he met and fell in love with Brad. What Luca experiences as love seems very different for Brad… and thus begins their tumultuous relationship.

The book cycles back and forth between the past and the present to tell the story of these two men. I found the time jumps a little confusing because they were sometimes combined with POV switches. This story reads more like a personal memoir than a novel… there’s something very intimate about the way Dell’Olio writes the thoughts and reflections of Luca in particular.

Luca grew up during a time when many gay men struggled with the definition of gay. Did being gay mean being effeminate? Did being gay mean being flamboyant? Was a gay lifestyle mutually exclusive with a spiritual one?

Once the men are in their 50s and are reunited, Luca begins to unpack his journey with Brad. With the wisdom of age, he is able to look back over his youth and recognize the more destructive aspects of their relationship.

I can’t speak to how accurate this novel is in terms of the Catholic Church and its stance on homosexuality. But I certainly hope that there is a future of inclusion for queer folks in religious institutions if that’s what they desire in their life. It certainly gave me a sense of hope to read about a Bishop who would be supportive of queer individuals.

The warnings bit: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: domestic violence, homophobia (overt and internal), infidelity, breaking of vow of celibacy

I received an ARC of Body and Soul by Mario Dell’Olio from via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

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