Sunday, September 28, 2008
Abide With Me: A Novel
This 2006 novel was written by Elizabeth Strout, author of award winning novel Amy and Isabelle .
A young Maine minister, Tyler Caskey, loses his young wife to cancer, and struggles with his grief. As the book opens a year after his wife's death back in 1959, his congregation has begun to gossip about the young minister and even his young daughter, who has stopped speaking. The once popular minister who was admired for his sermons and sought out for advice is now criticized for not bouncing back - and for not being the same man. He struggles to deal with everyday tasks such as buying new shirts.
The author cleverly describes the inner workings of Caskey's mind to draw the reader into his deep state of grief, conveying a sense of how off balance he feels by the sudden loss of his wife and the ensuing changes in his life. In one scene, a character asks Caskey if dealing with death is easier when one is a minister, to which he simply replies "No".
Yet amidst the petty and small minded acts that beset Caskey, the author intertwines beacons of light- relationships that comfort him, teach him, and give him enough hope to deal with his feelings of confusion about God and fellow human beings.As Caskey struggles with whether he can still be a minister to this congregation, he discovers that it is only through his willingness to share his vulnerability - and, in a sense, rejoin and re-engage with his congregation - that others will begin to understand his grief and recognize his humanity.
[image description: The book cover is shown. A young girl with blonde hair is shown, looking down. The title Abide With Me is printed under her image and the author's name, Elizabeth Strout, is shown below that.]