by Marilynne Robinson
For years, Robinson’s novel Housekeeping has been one
of my favorite books, and now that I’ve read Gilead
it’s hard to imagine a novel that I could love more.
Every sentence shines in this quiet story, and as I read it,
I felt so fortunate to be inhabiting Reverend John Ames’s
world for the first time—and equally fortunate to share
the same world as Marilynne Robinson.
I am deeply respectful of some Christians, I’m not a
Christian myself. I just can’t believe that humanity
is born in sin, or that what happens beyond this life is more
important than what happens during it, or that there is only
one path to wisdom and Grace. But reading Gilead makes me
profoundly appreciative of the questions and struggles that
shape a certain kind of Christian life. Oh, this is such a
by Molly Gloss
I have a deep and abiding fondness for the sasquatch legend,
and I love the way this story about a feisty and opinionated
west coast suffragette leads readers to the very heart of
what that legend means to me.
by Alison Luterman
This is an utterly beautiful book of poetry. These poems are
so completely grounded in the vegetable gardens, and weddings,
and broken glass of this life, and yet they invite such a
deep spiritual response. They are wise and real and memorable.
the Time of Greenbloom, and Brotherly Love,
by Gabriel Fielding
Gabriel Fielding is the pen name of Alan Barnsley, and as
an undergraduate at Washington State University, I was fortunate
enough to study fiction writing with Alan Barnsley. He was
a wonderfully eccentric Englishman who quit a career as a
doctor to devote himself to writing and teaching. He and his
wife were extremely witty and deeply gracious people, and
I remember—very vividly and fondly—the teas they
used to host for Alan’s students, complete with fine
china, rumpled linen, and delicious homemade pastries, preserves,
and milky tea.
I’ve been rereading Fielding’s novels, and find
they not only withstand the test of time, but also do a marvelous
job of conjuring an earlier time—specifically England
before and during World War II. Now I wish that Alan were
still alive so that I could have him and his charming wife
to tea (not that mine would be nearly as bountiful and delicious),
and converse with them as peers. There is so much I wish I
could ask about his books.
by Kent Haruf
I read Plainsong when it first came out, and loved both its
blunt surface and the poetry and emotion that resided beneath.
Eventide is every bit as moving and thought-provoking, and
it is wonderful to be able to spend some more time with the
McPheron brothers and Victoria Roubideaux again, and once
again to witness the profound kindness and deep respect of
their unlikely love for each other.
by Geraldine Brooks
Two friends gave me this book and I read it alone in an opulent
hotel room and on my cattle-class airplane flight home with
great pleasure. It’s written from the point of view
of the father of Jo March (the protagonist of Little Women)
as he describes his work as a chaplain with the Northern Army
in the Civil War.
descriptions of what he experiences are gripping, as are his
struggles with his questions about what justifies violence
and how much of the horrors he has witnessed—and participated
in—he should report to his wife and daughters back home.
The allusions to the world of Little Women are just icing
on the cake.
Red Badge of Courage,
by Stephen Crane
My twelve-year-old son and I read this aloud to each other
as part of his studies of the Civil War. I was fascinated
by the immediacy of it, as well as by the way the natural
world appears so often as a frame or a foil for the human
ironies the novel describes are surely the ironies at the
heart of all wars—the fact that young men become soldiers
in hopes of personal glory and not because of political principles,
and that in a battle even the thought of glory is lost in
the fear and confusion of the horrible moment.
by Mildred Walker
I found a copy of Winter Wheat twenty-five years ago while
I was rummaging through a box at a used book sale on Palouse
Day in Palouse, Washington. It was a World War II-issue brown
library hardcover, with only the title to draw me to it. But
I love winter wheat—both as metaphor and as reality—so
I opened the book, began to read, and instantly felt as if
I had made a priceless discovery.
Wheat a wise, vivid, and quiet story about a young farm woman
in the first half of the last century who must choose between
the life of her parents or the life that college opens for
her. In the past few years I have been very gratified to see
Winter Wheat be reprinted and rediscovered by other readers.
It is a book that needs to be kept alive.