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
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.