The Confessional
J. L. Powers

Hardcover/271 pages
ISBN: 0-375838724
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". . . Powers paints a powerful and disturbing picture . . ."

The Confessional: Everyone is guilty of something.


On Cinco de Mayo, a man walks across the bridge in El Paso with explosives strapped to his body. He blows a hole in the bridge—and the world—in protest of the women who have died working in American factories based in Mexico.

A year later, MacKenzie Malone, a student at Jesuit school, writes a letter to the editor of the paper protesting the traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration because it could be construed as celebrating a terrorist’s actions. A few days after his letter appears, MacKenzie or “Mac” is dead, stabbed to death outside his house.

The Jesuit school boys run the gamut from rich white and Mexican-American boys from privileged families to poor white and multi-racial Texans and poor Mexican boys who daily cross the bridge from Juarez. One of those boys killed Mac, but who was it?

Did Dirty Bernie who Mac beat up the earlier that day send his friends to knife Mac? Was it Daniel Tucker who made a pass at Mac and has carefully guarded the fact he himself is gay? Or was it the silent, watchful Alexander Gold who has sat side by side in class with Mac and the others unnoticed and unknown? Was Mac’s death racially motivated or was there another reason? Finding the truth will affect each of the Jesuit school boys and their families and force them to choose sides.

Through the voices of six boys, all with something to hide, J. L. Powers paints a powerful and disturbing picture of El Paso life in The Confessional. Each voice speaks not only for himself but for a segment of the population that, in this time of war and distrust of anyone different from the accepted American norm, offers a wider view of racial and interracial tensions. Powers masterfully provides a glimpse of the underbelly of the world in our midst without authorial intrusion, allowing each of the characters to tell his story in his own way.

The Confessional is about more than racial tension or the demons that drive us to abandon what we know in search of a justice that wears a different face depending on who’s looking. It is about the emotions that seethe just below the surface, ready to boil over at any time, destroying or changing everything in the way.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell