Danny Gospel is definitely a unique story. As I read the book, I realized that I couldnít figure out what was real and what was a figment of Danny's imagination. He's doubtlessly living through hard times, and he reminisces often of the past, when he and his family were a famous traveling gospel-singing group and he was known as Danny Gospel. There has been a lot of tragedy and loss since those days, and now Danny is barely getting by.
Early on in the story, Danny thinks that a beautiful lady dressed in white has kissed him on the lips as he is wakes from a deep sleep. The rest of the story is his search of this woman, and this is where I started to realize that Danny's mind isn't all there. A lot of the story is hard to decipher at times, in that it is sometimes difficult to determine if what Danny is experiencing is fantasy or real life. For me as a reader, I had to accept the fact that Danny's journey to find this woman is almost like a fantasy in which Danny tries to find happiness that he could never reach. Living in a world where he's lost most of his loved ones, including a woman that he had hoped to one day marry, Dannyís past mingles with the present and takes on an almost lyrical quality as the reader travels with Danny in search of that elusive lady dressed in white.
While the author showed great promise as a writer, I had a hard time liking Danny Gospel. The writing is good, but I couldnít quite sympathize with the main character, nor did I like him very much. There is something off about him - something not quite right with his head, so to speak - and I know this was intentional on the authorís part, but I didnít find any of these qualities endearing. He's all alone, abandoned by the remaining family that he has, but one can't tell whether the fault is his or his family's lack of understanding. I sense that Danny has a lot of mental problems and had been different since a young boy; he looks at life in a unique way, unlike those who follow mainstream lives and do "the right thing," whatís expected. Danny's path in life always is to follow his heart, even though it isn't the path that others want him to take. At the end, he does find that mystery woman, or at least he thinks he's found her.
The author describes Danny as a modern-day Don Quixote, and I agree. Danny's heart is in the right place, but his actions are not always that of a sane person. He's living in a dream world that most cannot understand, but that is probably his charm and what gets him through life. I for one found Danny almost irritating to some degree, but I have to give the author credit for being able to create such an outlandish, complex character. David Athey shows promise as a writer with this debut novel, with the creation of such a complicated character as Danny.