Set in present day Manhattan, The Fool of New York City is the tale of two souls who are considered to be fools and idiots in the eyes of most people they encounter.
One is a literal giant, the other an amnesiac who believes he is the 17th century Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, hundreds of years old, aging more slowly than the rest of the human race. Billy the giant has also briefly suffered from amnesia years ago, and he understands the anguish of those who have lost their identity. He is an apparently simple person, a failed basketball player with an enormous good heart who takes Francisco under his wing after they meet through a seeming coincidence. Together they undertake a laborious search to discover Francisco's true past.
The trail leads them to numerous adventures, into the shrouded realm of hidden memories, the ironies and complexities of human character and destiny, of catastrophic evil and of redemption. It is a journey into the mysterious dimensions of the mind. It is about trauma and remembrance in America.
Both his written work and visual art have been reviewed and reproduced widely. He is an author of several books, notably his seven volume series of novels published by Ignatius Press of San Francisco. The first volume, Father Elijah, published in 1996, has sold more than 40,000 copies in hardcover, and subsequent novels have also sold well.
A wistful, startling read.The Fool of New York Cityis an absorbing meditation on memory, identity, and the human capacity for survival and love in the midst of the most devastating of tragedies.
— Fiorella De Maria, Author,Do No Harm
O'Brien is a masterful storyteller and a gifted artist. His beautiful depiction of human struggle and good versus evil will deeply move and inspire you.
— Danielle Bean, Editor, Catholic Digest
An extraordinary book. With exquisite prose and an artist's eye, Michael O'Brien weaves a charming narrative cut through with a heart-wrenching sorrow that might well leave you gasping for breath. It is the best of O'Brien's novels.
— Michael Richard, Author, Tobit's Dog
There aren’t many authors who do character development with the same thoroughness as Michael O’Brien.
And, say some of my reading pals, few use as many words as he does either.
I can only laugh, because however slowly his novels may move at times, he captures me with his prose and holds me.
His newest novel, The Fool of New York City, is one of the shorter books he’s written: at under 300 pages, it’s not even very hefty. The story within the covers, though, is filled with characters who you know and love by the end, who may fill your mind with their own stories if you let them.
Francisco is found by Billy, and the two become friends. Billy takes care of Francisco and tries to help him remember his life; because of his amnesia, he’s convinced he is Francisco de Goya (as in the 18th century painter) and just aging a lot differently than the rest of the world.
O’Brien’s characters are long on character: Billy is at least 7 feet tall, lives in an abandoned building that he’s remodeling, keeps hens on the roof, and views himself as a rescuer. He’s simple in a way that’s pure innocence and good in a way that’s sheer saint.
And if I’m talking as though I’ve met him, it’s because that’s how I feel after reading this book, that I met Billy Revere and shared some omelets with him, perhaps watched him as he jogged through Central Park.
Francisco eventually finds his way into his true identity, thanks to Billy’s patient support and help. There’s even a bit of a “happily ever after” to this (not so un-O’Brien-like, that)…but not without some wondering.
There were parts of this story that were harrowing and there’s a depth of feeling that I appreciated…I didn’t relate with the specifics, but there’s a mourning and a sorrowing within the story, central to both the main characters, that is, quite possibly, very human. It’s beautifully extracted and woven together in a beautiful tapestry.