The Jesuit and the Dragon: The Life of Father William Mackey in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan


299 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography
ISBN 1-895854-37-7
DDC 266'.0092




Reviewed by Ashley Thomson

Ashley Thomson is a full librarian at Laurentian University and co-editor or co-author of nine books, most recently Margaret Atwood: A Reference Guide, 1988-2005.


Why would anyone want to read about the life of an obscure Jesuit
missionary who toiled anonymously in one of the most primitive parts of
the world for many years and who failed to convert a single soul to
Christianity? Because this is one of the best reads of this (or any
other) season. Solverson not only brings this fascinating man to life (a
bit of an exaggeration, since Mackey is still very much alive), but also
sheds light on an obscure part of the world in a way that compels the
reader to care about what happened there.

Solverson has based his tale mostly on the stories Father Mackey told
him. He recounts the priest’s life, beginning in Montreal where Mackey
was born in 1915, through his decision to enter the priesthood, to his
first posting in northern India in 1947 as a priest/teacher. In 1963
Mackey was forced to leave India, and was reposted to Bhutan; it was
there that he began what Solverson considers to be Mackey’s life work.
Aided by a government that considered education important, Mackey was
able to help build Bhutan’s system of secondary education; he was
rewarded with the country’s highest honors, including citizenship.

What makes the story so interesting—besides Mackey’s brief
encounters with such famous people as Mother Teresa—is Solverson’s
sympathetic, yet nonhagiographic approach to Mackey. This book is a


Solverson, Howard., “The Jesuit and the Dragon: The Life of Father William Mackey in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,