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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
The sermons he at first loved to write and deliver from memory become an impossible chore. The once friendly congregation, comprising most of West Annett’s residents, becomes hostile. He and his family are fodder for gossip. His spirit is crumbling. Most distressing of all, Tyler Caskey questions his belief in the God he once unconditionally loved.
Constantly running through Tyler Caskey’s mind are the words of Friedrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian, who died at the hand of the Nazis. Bonhoeffer, by all accounts, epitomized courage and Christian love. He left America, returned to Germany in the midst of Hitler’s reign of terror, was arrested and executed. His executioner reportedly said that Bonhoeffer was at peace, praying until his last breath. Tyler Caskey tries his best to emulate Bonhoeffer’s courage during his darkest hours and is frustrated by his inability to experience The Feeling, as he calls the almost visceral evidence of God.
Also running through the book are words to the popular hymn, “Abide with Me”, Tyler Caskey’s leitmotif. “The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide; When other helpers fail and comforts flee; Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.”, are words every Christian has repeated countless times without understanding them.
Elizabeth Strout tells Tyler Caskey’s multilayered story with her usual exquisite writing. She often uses nature as metaphor as she sets each scene. Her descriptions of the sky, clouds and trees are as vivid as paintings and as beautiful as poetry. This was my third reading of ABIDE WITH ME, and the story gets only more powerful.