Frank Turner Hollon takes on a formidable task in The God File: a search for God over a vast wasteland of personal pain and the struggle to account for a misspent life. Gabriel Black is the instrument of his own punishment, a young man who has taken the murder of his girlfriend's husband on his own shoulders. The girlfriend makes no sound in his defense. Gabriel is left alone and bereft behind prison bars.
Sentenced to life in prison without parole for a murder he didn't commit, Black sets himself the task of finding God in the lowest of places, where the dregs of humanity endure endless days of mind-numbing boredom with only their twisted memories for company. Some spend the years reading, learning about the world they have left behind, while others escape into the monotony of drug-induced sleep or give free reign to the insidious demons that have brought them to this place.
Walking this landscape of despair, Hollon treads familiar territory as his protagonist gathers the contents of the box that will define his life, bit by bit, piece by piece assimilating The God File. There are letters, despairing essays, remembrances of things past, questions about this terrible struggle we call life.
Gabriel describes himself as a Catholic and, for anyone who knows that religion, his journey is littered with the small rituals and pieties, the beliefs that are wedged so deep in the soul that they almost cease to exist -- until they are needed. Then, in the never-quiet never-quite-dark, they emerge, tiny hopeful prayers begging for a response. Needing a God.
Gabriel's quest is intensely spiritual, and the years he spends gathering his ambiguous evidence are necessary for his evolution toward the answer he so desperately craves. It would be impossible for Gabriel to find God when he hasn't the maturity to save himself, let alone determine the existence of God. Each particle of thought scribbled on a scrap of paper in The God File is necessary to the whole.
In order for Gabriel to find an answer to his question and find peace, he must be willing to endure the journey step by agonizing step. After all the years, all the unspoken entreaties that fall on fallow ground, Gabriel finds what he seeks -- but it's not your answer or mine, for each journey is intimate, personal and marked by the struggles of the individual soul. Yet Gabriel has the courage to take each frail step, to surrender this awful question: "If God gives me more than I can endure, how can I know?" When Gabriel listens to the faint sound that drifts through the chambers of his tortured mind, he understands, at last. And he knows peace.