The Book of Timothy

Like Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast, The Book of Timothy: A Sister’s Pursuit weaves a lyric voice into a difficult subject matter; in this case, a sister’s attempt to extract a confession from the Catholic priest who abused her brother. When the legal system fails, is restorative justice still possible?

Set in Rome, Chicago, and Anchorage, and spanning thirty years from crime to confrontation, The Book of Timothy: A Sister’s Pursuit recounts in lyric movements a sister’s journey, partly through trickery, but eventually through truth, to gain a long-absent admission from the priest who abused her brother. While on that journey, Nockels Wilson, a former prosecutor, confronts not only the priest, but her personal quest for vengeance. She further seeks an understanding of how the first Book of Timothy, the work of St. Paul, contributed to the silencing of women in her once loved Catholic Church. This Book of Timothy promises to take the reader on a quest for justice and down a path of unexpected coincidences that ends where it first began: out of a great love for a brother and in the power of first memory.


Prosecutor, marathoner, and heartbroken sister Joan Nockels Wilson combines investigatory skills, endurance, and a thirst for answers—possibly even revenge—in a harrowing quest to track down and confront the priest who molested her brother. Wilson’s stunning memoir succeeds on multiple levels, evoking a Chicago childhood steeped in firefighting lore, the Cubs and Catholic ritual, while also transporting us to modern-day Rome and the Vatican, places rich in beauty and hypocrisy. Some books are disturbing, yet should be read regardless. This one equally unnerves and uplifts, using both pathos and dark humor to illuminate the plight of a writer dedicated to family, complex faith, and the tireless pursuit of understanding.
—Andromeda Romano-Lax, author of Annie and the Wolves

“Searching, righteous, uncompromising—this is a powerful tribute to a brother’s courage, a sister’s perseverance. In the end, The Book of Timothy transforms into a book of redemption.”
—Alison Smith, bestselling author of Name All the Animals: A Memoir

Joan Wilson’s two feet on the ground, spiritual journey towards a hard-won compassion begins as a quest for revenge and becomes something else, which I want to call grace. This is an important story for victims of abuse, first by priests then, in its failure to protect children, by the Catholic Church itself. It’s an important story, and I’m grateful to Joan Wilson for telling it.
—Beverly Donofrio, bestselling author of Riding in Cars With Boys: Confessions of a Bad Girl Who Makes Good

Joan Nockels Wilson

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Genre/Imprint: Boreal Books, Memoir

$18.95 Tradepaper

Shop: Red Hen, Bookshop, Barnes & Noble

ISBN: 9781597099325