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!Read E-pub ß Evensong ⚺ A Bestselling Novel By A Distinguished Author Brings To Life The People Of A Small Smoky Mountain Town And A Woman Whose World Is Indelibly Altered By Them Beautifully Written And Filled With The Insight And Compassion Godwin Is Known For, Evensong Is About Family, The Sometimes Uncomfortable Bonds Of Marriage, And The Quest For Religious Faith Loved it Will remember the main character for a long time Loved her view that a marriage should make of both parties Loved her musings on faith and human character Loved her willingness to give of herself in an effort to be a good friend and a good shepherd Highly recommend it. Congress wrote God onto every dollar bill, but it s always been hard to find that statement of faith written in American literature The Puritans had no use for such light diversions as fiction And those 19th century classics that still bedevil high school students Walden, The Scarlet Letter, Moby Dick were composed by nonconformists who thought of themselves as outside the temple gates.In our own century, the triumph of irony, ambiguity, and downright cynicism has made America s highbrow fiction either oblivious to traditional religion or hostile to it Even the few recent exceptions seem to prove the rule The protagonist in Anne Tyler s Saint Maybe 1991 seeks salvation in a quirky cult obsessed with the avoidance of sugar John Updike s In the Beauty of the Lilies 1995 opens with a Presbyterian minister losing his faith and closes in the flames of Waco Barbara Kingsolver s Poisonwood Bible 1998 rails against the arrogance of Christian missionaries The blustering real estate tycoon at the center of Tom Wolfe s A Man in Full 1998 is finally saved by turning to Greek stoicism and worshipping Zeus in a comic conclusion that seems as much a satire of modern day evangelicalism as an endorsement of classical theology.Despite a national literature strongly devoted to portraying ordinary people, writers seem unable or unwilling to include elements of faith and religion that are part of most Americans lives Tens of millions of Americans go to church every week, read the Bible every day, and pray all the time, but that would surprise anyone learning about 20th century life from our literature.For readers waiting for a literary novel that treats traditional religious issues with wisdom, wit, and compassion, Gail Godwin s Evensong is an answer to prayer Here, finally, is a thoroughly post post modern book that doesn t worship irony and ambiguity to the exclusion of all other values.The story takes place in High Balsam, a small mountain town in North Carolina during the final months of the millennium Margaret Bonner, the young pastor of an Episcopal church, can t wait for all the hoopla to pass She s concerned about the rising tensions between wealthy professionals and recently laid off workers She knows how much delicate work will be required to preserve this community, while rousing some members from complacency and dousing others millennial extremism.The story opens on the evening that three strangers drop in on Margaret s quiet contemplation of the Advent season First, Tony, an 80 year old monk, steps off a Greyhound bus and suggests he needs a place to stay the night Then, Grace Munger, a large, rude woman in a voluminous red cape, swoops in to reveal God s plan for a Millennial Birthday March for Jesus And finally, the aptly named Chase Zorn, an alcoholic student at her husband s reform school, gets expelled and must move in with them.Each of these visitors promises a short stay, but instead, they hover around for months, bringing frustrations no one would want, but at the same time deepening and blessing Margaret s sense of family than she could have imagined.There s so much to admire about this sensitive, perfectly paced novel, but what s particularly striking are Godwin s insights into a busy marriage between people wholly devoted to helping others.Margaret guides her church flock with humor and humility Her husband struggles to hold the school together in the wake of its founder s death and his own sense of inadequacy With so many people pulling at them, they know how easy it is to neglect each other Struggling to figure out the monk s real purpose, save Chase from his self destructive impulses, and fend off Grace Munger s incendiary birthday plans proves almost than Margaret and her husband can handle.It s fascinating to see the kind of intimacy possible in a novel concerned with the spiritual requirements of marriage between two very smart, religious people In her charmingly self conscious narrative, Margaret s prayers and conversations about God with her husband seem a hundred times revealing than the predictable sex scenes that too often pass for intimacy in fiction.Comforting a new widow, rousing her husband from depression, parrying with an outrageous fundamentalist, or wrestling with her own doubts, Margaret is the minister many cherish in real life but never get to see in fiction Evensong is a story full of fresh, spiritual wisdom, yet entirely free of cant or saccharine truisms Smashing one of the strangest taboos in American literature, Godwin may have finally brought religion back from the wilderness and made it a safe subject for literary fiction.http www.csmonitor.com 1999 0318 p1 This book was very readable but ultimately very disappointing The main disappointment is the main character, a young female Episcopal priest She is basically the Reverend Mary Sue All of her emotions are told, not shown She is ever serene and quietly musing, regardless of the chaos around her, and has a calm, wise answer for every question She s just very unsatisfying Her compliant is that her husband withdraws from her, but she s very withdrawn herself in my opinion and is virtually never shown confronting him and trying to draw him out She just QUIETLY MUSES about it Also, she s an Episcopal priest and seems uncertain about whether Jesus was God Wait a minute WHAT She reads with approval a seminary candidate s application stating that Christianity and Hinduism can both be true at the same time WHAT NO THEY ACTUALLY CAN T Believe them or not, Christianity makes very explicit and very EXCLUSIVE truth claims My final objection to this book was that there were multiple sub plots that didn t come together in any satisfactory way in the end All the way through the book the author drops hints about the fundamentalist character, Grace, possibly being an arsonist But at the end when a church finally burns down, it s because SOMEBODY LEFT AN IRON ON Again WHAT Grace is a way interesting character than Margaret aka Rev Mary Sue but she doesn t ultimately get to play any role in the denouement and in the epilog has completely dropped out of sight Remember what Chekov said If you show a gun in Act One it had better be fired before the end of the play Grace is the gun that was never fired It s frustrating to me that it seems so hard for anyone to write a serious book about people of faith I generally dislike Christian fiction because it is so shallow All Christian characters are good, all non Christian characters are bad, Jesus solves everybody s problems, the end , and mainstream literature either ignores faith or only deals with wacko fundamentalists It s a shame this wasn t a better book, because I think it was a brave attempt and there were some really good theological and philosophical nuggets in it. I was very moved and touched by this book I shy away from books like this sometimes, afraid of superficial dabblings in human relationship But I didn t find that in this book It is motivated and organized around communion with the Divine, which gives it depth and meaning at least to me But it is really the relationships that drive the story Deep characters, with everyday flaws things that plague us all insecurities, regrets, fears, and failures, among others Its saving grace is the thing that save us all faith, hope, and love, and like the scriptures say, love is the most important of all.Written to the narrator s daughter, some of the plot twists are expected, and some are unexpected The blend of action and introspection allows the reader or, again, at least me to reflect and assimilate the new developments, much as is necessary in real life While perhaps the characters are forgiving than I could admit to being, they are multidimensional This has to be one of the best books to blend religion Episcopalian and life, with an even focus on the good and the bad While it doesn t make religion, or religious life, faultless, it certainly gives a glimpse to what attracts, protects, and uplifts those who believe.A stirring book for those who enjoy thinking about the divine and the love that flows through us all.