"The Shoes of the Fisherman" is a novel first published in 1963 which centers on the election and early reign of Pope Kiril I, a Russian, recently released from prison, whose secret appointment to the College of Cardinals was revealed by his dying predecessor upon his release from prison. The novel begins with the preparations for the conclave and the mechanism of Kiril's election.
In the course of this novel, author Morris West weaves an intriguing collection of characters and themes though the book and into each others lives, all centering on Pope Kiril. The characters include a German-Jewish, American-Catholic widow trying to find meaning in her life in Rome, an American reporter, an Italian politician, the woman torn between them, a suppressed Jesuit theologian and assorted Curial officials. Summit correspondence channeled through Kiril adds a touch of diplomatic tension to the tale.
The story which each of these characters brings to the novel grasps the attention of the reader One is tempted to try to find recent Popes in the person of Kiril. Is he Paul who started the tradition of Papal travelers? Is he John Paul the Wander, another "Light from the East", whose involvement in international power politics will be studied for years? The reader is well advised to resist the temptation to see history in this novel. The ultimate story is Kiril himself, Kiril the priest-counselor, the priest-confessor, Kiril the pastor, the Vicar of the Prince of Peace, but mostly the soul searching for God's will and reaching within himself for the courage to follow it. Through the book you will wonder about the characters who flow in and out of it. At the end you will focus on Kiril as he fathoms the mysteries of God. This is what you will keep in your mind and ponder in your heart.