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Evensong
     

Evensong

4.3 3
by Gail Godwin
 

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To read Gail Godwin is to touch the very core of human experience. With inimitable grace and aching emotional precision, Godwin probes our own complexities in characters whose lives oscillate between success and struggle, stoic resolve and quixotic temptation, bitter disappointment and small, sacred joys. Now with Evensong, she again translates our everyday

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Evensong 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Relationships, religion and redemption are the 3 R's in National Book Award nominee Gail Godwin's Evensong, an eloquently rendered, albeit sometimes decelerated, story of a woman's path to spiritual identity. In this, her tenth novel, Ms. Godwin reintroduces us to Margaret, the daughter in Father Melancholy's Daughter (1991). We are reminded that Margaret was deserted at the age of six by her mother, and raised by her father, a too needy Episcopalian rector who suffered from bouts of depression and 'lived by the grace of daily obligation.' Later, either responding to a call or displaying filial approbation, Margaret chooses to follow in her father's professional footsteps. When we meet her again she is attending General Theological Seminary, and has set her sights on Rev. Adrian Bonner, a balding, fortyish, self-denigrating cleric. Margaret is convinced that having each other will make more of them both. Dropped off at a Catholic orphanage by his parents, Adrian also bears scars of rejection. As a 10-year-old, he sought approval by imitating the institution's director - the young Adrian fashioned a rudimentary flagellum with 'strips of rubber from a piece of inner tube,' and punished himself daily. An unlikely candidate for conjugal bliss, a facsimile of Margaret's father? Indeed. It puzzles why Margaret, as astute as she is in the study of human nature, did not see this herself. Only later does she unearth 'a flinty bedrock of self-hatred' beneath Adrian's chronic despair. Becoming temporarily impotent, he makes 'bitter jokes about December graybeards who took to themselves May brides.' As the world stands ready for Y2K, the Bonners move to High Balsam, a small North Carolina community. Margaret is to be rector of All Saints High Balsam, and Adrian on the staff of a therapeutic high school. A paradigm American community in economic straits, High Balsam is ripe for an onslaught by Grace Munger, a rabid and rotund evangelist who receives direct instructions from the Lord. Describing herself as a 'freelance apostle,' Grace says God has mandated a parade - a Millennium Birthday March for Jesus. When Margaret declines Grace's invitation to join her march, the evangelist digs in her booted heels and campaigns to change the young rector's mind. Two surprising visitors add to the turmoil in Margaret's life. First, there is the appearance of Tony, a 'scraggy old customer' who claims to be a monk from the Abbey of the Transfiguration. Margaret feels obligated to invite the 80-year-old to spend the night with them, a stay that becomes days and then weeks. Tony, it turns out, is as adroit at duplicity as he is at rolling his own cigarettes. By making himself useful, he slowly insinuates himself into the couple's lives. A second unexpected houseguest is Chase Zorn, a rebellious teenager who has been expelled from Adrian's school, a 'volatile boy, seething with intelligence and mistrust, testing to the limit anyone who dared love him.' The addition of these two disparate personalities to a rather benign household proves to be an incendiary mix, both literally and figuratively, when Tony confesses that he is Adrian's father and a forgotten iron sets fire to Margaret's church. One of the novel's most poignant scenes is found in Margaret's conversation with a young girl who disdains the Bible as a book that tells one how to be good. Margaret explains, 'It's a record of people keeping track of their relationship with God over a long period of time.... People go through some pretty awful stages as they fumble toward what they're meant to be.' Moving toward what one is meant to be is at the heart of Ms. Godwin's well articulated tale. Whether defiantly questioning or unquestioningly faithful, Margaret's journey is much like everyman's journey. Evensong may help us along the way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent, thought-provoking book. Besides an interesting story, many important issues are raised. These are the kinds of things that like to churn around in your head even after you've finished the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
At first, I couldn't get into this long meandering narrative, but once I was hooked in Margaret's world, I couldn't put it down.