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Evensong (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – February 29, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Margaret Bonner Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the tight-knit Smoky Mountain town of High Balsam, several weeks before the new millennium, Margaret Bonner finds herself pondering the notion of marriage. "I was mystified anew by this whole thing we humans do when we take it into our heads to love one particular person," she muses. At 33, she is the first woman pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church, and her husband, Adrian, is the headmaster of a progressive high school. The Bonners are in a marital slump--Adrian's self-loathing exasperates his younger, more passionate wife and she can't resist imagining what life would be like without him. Yet as the end of the century approaches, they are forced to turn their attention outward and respond to the escalating needs of their North Carolina community. The appearance of three colorful misfits brings matters to a head. Grace Munger, an aggressive fundamentalist Christian, is on a crusade to organize a "Millennium Birthday March for Jesus"; Brother Tony, a chatty 80-year-old itinerant who's taken up the life of a Benedictine monk, has a particular interest in Adrian; and Chase, a 16-year-old delinquent, harbors a thirst for liquor, with calamitous consequences. In her sequel to Father Melancholy's Daughter, Gail Godwin expertly traces the contours of faith, compassion, and loyalty in an isolated community on the brink of change. --Rebecca Robinson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Godwin's latest novel is as comforting and evocative as its title. It's striking, at a time when so many books on spirituality are flooding the market, that so few novelists of skill and perceptiveness seem drawn to religion as a subject. Susan Howatch is one, of course, but Godwin has surely scored some kind of first in making her heroine here a female Anglican minister. Margaret Bonner, whom Godwin admirers will remember as the subject of Father Melancholy's Daughter, is now the pastor at All Saints High Balsam, a parish set in a conservative little resort community high in the Smokies in Western North Carolina. She married the much older Adrian Bonner, who is struggling as headmaster of a local boys' school, and who is apparently still daunted by thoughts of Margaret's youthful fling with Ben MacGruder, now a noted pop singer. Into their lives, as they approach the millennium (the book is set a year from now, at Advent 1999) comes Tony, a strange old man with dyed hair who represents himself as a monk on the move; Grace Munger, a local woman with a grim past who has set up as an evangelical revivalist and seeks Margaret's participation in an end-time parade to bring salvation and healing to the mountains; and Chase Zorn, a bright but self-destructive orphaned youngster who is a student at Adrian's school. Among a welter of conflicting emotions and loyalties, Margaret somehow keeps her sanity, even her serenity, intact, and learns to put together a long and loving life with a daughter born out of the sorrows of that strange and dramatic time. The carefully researched details of a woman minister's daily rituals are fascinating, and Godwin offers her usual insights into her characters' shifting feelings, compounded of psychological astuteness and keen empathy. Gracefully written and embracing a worldly but genuine sense of goodness and human possibility, this kind of book is rare these days. 75,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB selections.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (February 29, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345434773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345434777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Unfinished Desires, A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband, and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961--1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written libretti for ten musical works with the composer Robert Starer. She lives in Woodstock, New York.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Godwin writes the way Meryl Streep acts; with consummate skill, both natural and cultivated talent and some unearthly ability to slip into a character's mind and body and live there for a frustratingly short period of time. This is the third of Godwin's novels I've read; Father Melancholy's Daughter was right before this, and I thoroughly enjoyed living there with her, and the sorrow that I felt at the end of both books was that I would never get to meet Margaret or Father Gower or Adrian or Tony or even that likeable Gus. It's as if I've just missed them...well, I will have to wait for the next novel to show up to surprise me and thousands of other readers who appreciate such thoughful, tender, realistic portraits of towns and their people. Thank you, Gail.
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By A Customer on February 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
I read this book on the advice of a friend- a wonderful, sweet, intelligent friend whom I know is much more spiritual than I am. I sort of thought I would be out of my element, but she sent me the book, I love her dearly, so I read it. Reading "Evensong," I found my thoughts even when I was physically away from the book turning to issues and philosophies explored by Margaret Bonner. The idea of a marriage "making more of each other", her thoughts on Bible stories and how they apply to life...it was in many ways my own private philosophy course. Well, not "course," exactly; there was no lecturing, but sort of a prompter. I found the philosophical jumpstart to be a lovely way to pass the gray days of january.
BUT- I rated it 4 stars. Reading the other reviews, I see there is no consensus on what this book is about. It can be about any number of things as the actual action is fairly slow in deference to the descriptions and relationships and philosophies. That part is fine with me. And I agree that the build-up to the millenium in the story didn't quite work. But it is worth the read; just don't be looking for a totally absorbing story line. There is truly beautiful writing in this book-(maybe some places where it shouldn't be, like out of the mouth of a rebellious teenager.) Maybe parts of the story were a little unrealistic, but the insight, the inaction, the relationships were beautifully written and worth the read on their own.
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By A Customer on July 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book very much. If you like the Mitford series, you should enjoy this more sophisticated story about a woman Episcopal priest in another North Carolina mountain town. I found the author's spiritual insights to be not only enlightening, but also vital to the understanding of the story.
The contrast between Grace and Margaret perfectly illustrates the tension and conflict between many church-going Christians. The author is careful not to declare either approach right or wrong, but does point out the short-sightedness on both sides.
This book perfectly describes the normal, everyday trials and struggles of living as a minister's wife and as a minister. Like everyone else, ministers and their families deal with marital and child-rearing difficulties along with tragic events in their less-than-ideal lives, but the author aptly captures the "fish-bowel" living that occurs in the ministry. Even Margaret's and Adrian's intimate relationship and struggles with depression were sensitively and beautifully portrayed.
I recommend this well-written book to anyone who attempts to have a practical spiritual life in a hectic and harried world.
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Format: Hardcover
While I was reading "Evensong" I sometimes found it easy to put down, but several weeks and several books later, it is still on my mind. A book like this that leave a lasting impression is a treasure. How often do we find a novel about the efforts of several characters to be good people, and do good in the world? "Pastor Margaret"--intelligent and attractive yet down-to earth--is an extraordinary woman I would love to meet. This book is not perfect. The boy Chase does not ring true, Grace is too weird, and the plot seems contrived in places, especially the fire in the church. However the minor charcaters (Gus, Jennifer) were well drawn, Tony was vivid, and the struggles in Margaret and Adrian's marriage were honest. Each character must find the courage to face the new milennium by coming to terms with the past.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a story told from the first person - the narrator is a priest, a young woman who's both in love with and loves her husband. It's a peaceful yet completely disrming stoty with flashbacks filling in the characters. There's a slight amount of small-town intrigue in the backdrop of the end of the millenium. Mostly though, there's a quiet definition of the narrator's faith - in people, in life, in God.

I adored this story and its quiet, slow pace. Perhaps it does pale in comparison to the prequel - I picked this up in the library and didn't realize it was a sequel. It stands alone well.

(*)>
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A clergyman friend of mine sent me this book for Christmas and I must say that I found it to be quite wonderful. I have never read any of Ms. Godwin's books previously, but having just finished the book, I can highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in faith journeys and the like. I reminds me in some respects of the Mitford series which my wife and I have both so enjoyed, but this is many respects is much more complex and open-ended. It has my heartiest recommendation.
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