Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to


Posted by nliakos on May 11, 2014

by Gail Godwin (Random House 1999)

I must have read a review of this when it came out and added it to my list of books to read. I am sure it’s been on there at least 15 years! As the semester is ending, I went to McKeldin Library and the library at the Universities at Shady Grove and borrowed nine books on my list (and would have taken more, but I ran out of time and space in my rolling backpack; maybe next week). On the way home on the bus, I grabbed the first one my hand came in contact with: Evensong. 

I believe that this is the second book about Margaret Gower Bonner, Episcopal priest, but I haven’t read Father Melancholy’s Daughter, the first one. In Evensong, Margaret is married to the love of her life, Adrian Bonner. They live in the mountains of western North Carolina, where he is chaplain (and now acting headmaster) of a private school for children in crisis, and she is the pastor of a congregation called All Saints High Balsam. Their marriage, once so promising, is going through some rough times; Adrian tends to melancholy as much as his father-in-law apparently did. The novel opens a couple of days before the first Sunday of Advent, 1999, and takes us up to December 18 (with the epilogue some twenty years later), the day of a Millenium Birthday March for Jesus; the march is organized by an annoying woman who drives Margaret and everyone else crazy with her refusals to take “no” for an answer.

In those four weeks, we get to know (from Margaret’s perspective) a cast of interesting characters: Adrian, Chase (an unusually difficult student from Adrian’s school), Tony (a lay monk who turns up in High Balsam and ends up staying with the Bonners), Gus and Doctor Charles (a couple that Margaret marries in Chapter 9, as well as his tweenaged daughter Jennifer), Chase’s adoptive father who wishes Chase would just go away and stop getting into trouble, Grace Munger (the march organizer) and other people from the town. We also learn Margaret’s and Adrian’s backstories; Adrian’s explains a lot about his lack of confidence and self-esteem.  There are various subplots and story lines which culminate in a dramatic event in the final chapter, but no spoilers! It was a fast and enjoyable read, and I liked learning about an Episcopal priest’s responsibilities and daily routines–something I’ve never really thought about before.

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