– 127 – ‘Abide with me’, by Elizabeth Strout

After the book was published in 2006, Elizabeth Strout said this:

“As a storyteller, I don’t think it’s my job to pass judgment on the people whose lives I imagine and record.”

I think it totally sums up her writing.  Her amazing capacity to create characters that transcends descriptions because they’re so real and deep that to call them ‘normal, ordinary people seems wrong because none of us is ordinary, none of us is normal… we’re all individual, all different, all worth it to be talked about in a novel.

This book about the crisis of faith of a young priest.  About his grief after the tragic death of his young wife.  About love: between people, between man and god, between father and daughters and husband and wife.  Friendship, envy, loneliness, pride, fear, acceptance, trauma.  About a New England that is more than golden maple leaves but it’s cold, frozen winters that last forever.  About a 1950’s small town America on the verge of change but still anchored in its past and traditions.

All this told in Strout masterful, measured, gentle but powerful.  Not much actually happens on the outside, but internally, in each character that is where the story develops.  Lines that punch you in the stomach appear from nowhere, you almost miss them till you realise you’re suddenly breathless.

And at the end… there’s no redemption or choir of angels or kodak moments… just life.  And sometimes life is good.

From the outside it should be a very nothing of a book: grieving widowed priest struggles to cope.  But it’s totally compelling.

‘Abide with me’ is Strout second novel and I do feel that her language is much more ‘wordy’ than her latest work, for example ‘My name is Lucy Barton’… but still totally amazing.

She’s easily reached the top in my favourite writers’ list.

Go read it now.

What are you waiting for?