From Publishers Weekly
It is no insult to this occasionally moralizing humorist and Quaker pastor to say that he is a smalltown raconteur who writes tales tailor-made for readers who would never dream of living in one. In the compilation of anecdotes, recollections, riffs and barely disguised homilies that constitute his 14th book, Gulley, best known for his Harmony novels as well as theological ruminations like If Grace Is True
, skillfully mines his personal history and that of his neighbors for inspirational morsels. Family, friends, faith, community and even current events figure in meditations that span such topics as the architecture of his home, the virtues of intellectual inconsistency, his wife's passion for exercise and healthy eating, and whether it is indeed possible to have too many friends. While not afraid to be provocative on controversial subjects like creationism or politics, Gulley's general tone is straightforward, whimsical and irenic. One often wishes that he would spend more time with a particular topic, instead of giving it glancing attention before moving on. But urban readers who imbibe their literature with their lattes will find him as refreshing as do those who actually create the tapestry of homespun life Gulley so unpretentiously chronicles. (June)
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Gulley's little pieces aren't stories. They're old-fashioned personal essays, conversational, calmly opinionated, and comfortable. Since Gulley's a Christian pastor, trying to live good rather than just well informs every piece. Since Gulley's a Quaker pastor, and since Quakers believe every person capable of and obliged to practice ministry, he never preaches or cites scripture (that would be too presumptuous), which makes him nonthreatening to the Christ-averse and especially safe for those who like Garrison Keillor, Annie Dillard, Wendell Berry, and Kathleen Norris, even if they are "that way." He shares such writers' concern for family, neighbors, people one sees and interacts with often, old houses, country stores, venerable ways of doing things; like them, he doesn't have a neocon bone in his body. He writes as cleanly as they, and perhaps with greater range, encompassing the tooth fairy, cheap shoes, middle-age spread, chairs, and simplicity. He is a terrific buffoon when he wants to be, and his piece about sitting in a Quaker meeting may be the best this side of John Greenleaf Whittier. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved