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Abide with Me: A Novel Paperback – March 13, 2007
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This is the sad story of a newly-ordained minister who comes to a small town in Maine with his bride. The order of time in which the story is told bounces around from the present to the past and back again, but this storytelling sequence is brilliant and makes the tale even more riveting. More than book thick with plot, this is a character study. It is a tale of human nature--especially the taciturn New Englander--as well as God, community and, most of all, understanding one another and in so doing learning how to love. Highly recommended.
In 'Abide With Me' we meet Congregationalist minister, Tyler Casey, whose wife has died, and, maybe, his faith. Tyler loved his profession and the Congregation seemed to line him. We learn of Tyler's marriage to his wife. She if the wealthy Massachusetts family to a poor minister. He could not keep up with her buying sprees, but he loved her so. After the birth of their second daughter, she seemed to be suffering from an extreme case of postpartum depression, and the will to live.
After he death, Tyler changes, things seem to go downhill. His housekeeper, Connie is the only one he can talk to. His five year old daughter, Katherine, is having difficulty in school, and it seems the school administration does not know how to deal with grief. Tyler's younger daughter, Jeanne, lives with his mother. She is a strict, sour old puss, and itvseems Tyler does not know how to stand up to her.
We meet the church goers, and each one of them have their own secrets. Some share, some do not, but we learn all about them. All of this is leading to a breakdown of sorts, and Tyler is unaware. Katherine bears the brunt of negligence, but we see that Tyler loves her, and he does the best he can. Tyler's breakdown us the beginning of a new chance for he and his family. The long dark winter has turned to Spring.
Recommended. prisrob 07-05-17
Tyler is obviously having difficulty dealing with his wife's death and his oldest daughter - an elementary school student - is obviously having problems as well. There is no way Tyler can adequately deal with his problems in this small, reserved town. "He had expected an easing of his grief after that first year, but this was not the case. When Doris Austin's desire for a new organ became known to him - the church treasurere, the board, even a deacon had spoken to him on her behalf - it seemed like an ant in the far corner of a room that people were pointing to, while for him the room was spinning" (p277)
We see that the marriage wasn't perfect and how difficult it would be to be a pastor, or a pastor's wife, in a small 1-church town in Maine with all its noted reserve.
The town starts to pull away from him based on gossip and innuendo until everything comes to a head one Sunday.
Strout has some fantastic insights into life and she is just fantastic when describing nature, light and shadow.
"It was still October when the first snow fell. It came in the afternoon, light as white dandelion thistles being dropped from high in the sky. They took their time reaching ground, so light and sparse they floated. But there was a quiet steadiness to the snow, and by late afternoon, a soft covering lay over places where the ground swelled." (p 177)
"The world, with its pale noonday light washing down through the mostly bare trees, seemed filled with invisible currents - strips of knowledge he seemed unable to get hold of." (p 211)"
The HBO series "Olive Kitteridge" is taken from her novel of that same name. I haven't seen the series or read the book but I think Tyler's mother is the same type of person.
Come the end of the day, I don't find this novel nearly as strong and compelling as the other two I've read. The plot ties up just a little too easily.