On a personal, psychological level, “unfinished business” often refers to disturbing events or feelings that have not been fully examined. On a corporate or organizational level, “unfinished business” can refer to obligations and expectations left unfulfilled.
In Jim Wayne’s novel The Unfinished Man, the scholarly and unsociable Father Justin Zapp needs to examine the psychic wounds incurred in his youth when a priest sexually exploited him. Though Father Zapp has positioned himself within the church in a situation that allows him brilliantly to pursue scholarly work, his capacity for human interaction is severely limited. When news comes to Father Zapp of current sexual abuse within his diocese, he is challenged to become a strong shepherd protecting his innocent flock from predation.
Can his faith survive the finding that the Catholic Church itself, the largest organization in the world, has commonly covered up sexual abuse by priests instead of working to eliminate it? Can one man make a difference?
Can one priest find the courage to return to ground zero in his own psyche, acknowledge the wreckage, and slowly rebuild a new self with enough courage and stamina to combat sexual abuse by priests?
Set in the 1950s and ’60s, the landscape of The Unfinished Man ranges from rural Indiana to the Vatican. Other reform issues within the Church, such as the Church’s position vis-a-vis Jews, also come to the fore. Can a larger, more just, and humane spirituality emerge through new leadership?
While Jim Wayne’s novel unflinchingly presents the existence of evil, it succeeds equally in creating the presence of strength and goodness. This gripping novel also raises questions for any reader about his or her own private or public unfinished self.