Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review of The English Koren Tanakh: The Magerman Edition

The English Koren Tanakh: The Magerman Edition The Hebrew Bible in a New English Translation. Translated by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, et. al. Jerusalem: Koren Publisher, 2021

The Magerman Edition of the English Koren Tanakh is a beautifully put together volume. This translation of the Hebrew Scriptures done by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hirsch Weinreb and several other distinguished Jewish scholars does a good job of capturing both the richness of the Hebrew language in an understandable English syntax. As a Christian reader who has some fluency in the Hebrew language it is a gift to have the loving work of this dedicated group of scholars. This is one of translations I now use when doing a close reading of a text.

One of the gifts of doing work on the scriptures that we share with our Jewish ancestors is being aware of some of the differences in form and structure between how Christian and Jewish interpreters have approached these holy books that we share. The Jewish organization of scripture divides the scripture into three sections: Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy), Prophets (Joshua-Kings, Isaiah-Malachi excluding Daniel), and Writings (Wisdom literature, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Daniel).  The introductions also give several insights into how the scriptures are used in both personal devotion and corporate worship by our Jewish counterparts. The translations themselves capture balance the Hebrew syntax with English flow and readability and manage to capture the form of poetry and prose. The casual English reader will quickly realize that the names of individuals and places have been transliterated from the Hebrew rather than using the English traditional renderings of these names and places which date bank to the original English translations and are often significantly different than the Hebrew pronunciation. Even the layout of the text on the page is attractive to the eye and large enough to easily read. The maps, diagrams, and images at the end of the book are also very well done.

I’ve used several resources from Koren Publishers in the past and they have consistently been insightful and readable. I was given a copy of the Magerman Edition of the English Koren Tanakh to share an honest review of the resource and for those who are interested in a readable translation of the Hebrew Scriptures to inform their reading, devotions, and study I highly recommend this work.

Review of the Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels
Book 14: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

The Blind Assassin is a story within a story narrated in flashback by Iris Chase Griffen. Looking back as an old woman she remembers her time growing up with her sister Laura in household whose father shattered by World War I and the economic downturn of the 1930s and whose mother died while both girls were still young. Their father, Norval Chase, runs the Button Factory in the fictional town of Port Ticonderoga but struggles with alcoholism and depression and often isolates himself from the family to drink his pain away. Both girls were raised by Reenie, the family housekeeper, and while much of their childhood they live a relatively privileged life until the economic downturn and its impact on their father’s factory sets the conditions that cause her father to allow the wealthy Richard Griffen to propose to Iris at only eighteen to provide for his daughters. Iris’ marriage into the family of the politically ambitious Richard and his dominating sister Winifred leaves her feeling powerless, manipulated and controlled. Her husband’s version of love is abusive and Iris suspects he has several affairs during their marriage. Richard and Winifred also control the life of her sister Laura after the death of her father while Iris is on her honeymoon with Richard. The control of Laura’s life leads to her confinement in a mental health asylum and eventually her choice to commit suicide in a vehicular accident. Yet, Iris maintains her own secret life, an affair with Alex Thomas who tells her science fiction stories but who is also on the run for his activities with Communist groups in Canada in the 1930s. The story moves between the reflections and life of an old woman, remembrances of the affair and the narration of the story of the blind assassin, and a narration of the life of Iris to be handed on to her granddaughter who she is unable to see or visit due to the manipulation of the relationship between her daughter and her by Winifred.

The ending of this story is clever and the overall story is well written, but it takes a long time to develop. There is something in the voice of the old Iris which a bit haughty and detached in her view of the world around her and I had to work to get through the first two thirds of the book. Iris’ character is passive for much of the book and life happens to her, it is only in the end where we see the places where she has carved out a space to reclaim some control of her life. It is a book told from the perspective of regret: regret for her own feelings of powerlessness, regret for the damage she was unable to shield her sister, her daughter, or herself from. There is a realism in the lack of agency for a woman who is both the child of an alcoholic and who lives in a time where women had few options. I enjoyed the ending and that made the overall journey worth it. It is difficult to read the story of a woman who has no agency from the perspective of a man who is used to exercising agency and there were times I wanted to rage at the male characters in the story for the way they treated their daughter, their wife, or their lover. Yet, the views of the past are often as alien as the worlds that are described in the science fiction narrative of the blind assassin and the strange power of a book to place you in that alien place and allow you to rage at the situations of the characters in a book is part of the strange magic that authors yield in their words.

Review of Light in August by William Faulkner

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 49: Light in August by William Faulkner

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

Light in August deploys a combination of poetic and banal language to tell an ugly story with a series of characters who for their own reasons are unable to exist within the confines of their society. There is something that reminds me of the writing of Flannery O’Connor in the way Faulkner uses beautiful language combined with the simple speech of the characters in his stories that is authentic to their education and station. There are many times where the language and the assumptions of the American South in the 1930s, when the novel is written and set, are jarring to the ears of a modern hearer, but the novel is historically situated in a time where the views on race, sex, religion, and society are very different from our current era. At times I could fall into Faulkner’s poetic use of prose, and he is truly gifted as a wielder of the English language, but each of the characters is unlovable in their own ways. Whether it is the indomitable Lena who refuses to give up her search for Lucas Burch/Joe Brown who is the father to the child she carries, Joe Christmas whose birth and life seems to be overshadowed by a questionable birth and lineage and a grandfather who views his divine calling as bringing about the destruction of his grandson, or Gail Hightower the disgraced minister who lives in the shadow of his grandfather who died in the Civil War.

Light in August is a work of art but like all art its reception is subjective. The world of the 1930s American South at times seems like an alien world for its strangeness and prejudices. There are times where the work seems dystopian and none of the characters, except perhaps Byron Burch, attempt to be heroic. For me the prose is gifted but the story is plodding and the characters seem to fit into a deterministic pattern based upon their inherited flaws. I can appreciate it as a classic but it was hard to hear the speech of the 1930s South, especially towards Black Americans, and not cringe at the way the derogatory terms for Black Americans continued to echo in my head even after putting the book aside. Perhaps it, like Flannery O’Connor’s work, present an uncomfortable mirror to the world of my grandparents whose prejudices echo in both spoken and unspoken ways in our own.

Review of Herzog by Saul Bellow

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 43: Herzog by Saul Bellow

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

Herzog is named for the main character Moses Herzog a Jewish former professor whose mind seems to be unraveling in the aftermath of his second divorce. The story is told from a first-person perspective and the reader is invited into the rambling reflections of an intelligent but cluttered mind. Moses Herzog begins by stating, “If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me.” We encounter in Moses’ thinking, speaking, and especially in his incessant drive to write notes to a diverse group of recipients from former friends and relations to President Dwight Eisenhower a mind balancing on the precipice of sanity. There are times when the erratic and non-chronological reflections full of non-sequiturs do feel like a descent into some type of madness of this man driven by compulsions he doesn’t understand.

The mind of Moses Herzog is the entirety of the novel and entering into that mind is to encounter the contradictions and confusions of a person who struggles to comprehend the world around him and the feelings and motivations of other individuals. His divorce caused, in his view, by the manipulation by his wife and best friend shatter him. A combination of the situation and the makeup of Moses as an individual leave him caught in an egocentric loop where the world revolves around his experience of it. He is not a rational actor at this point in his life and he often sabotages himself by making impulsive decisions on a whim which cause him trouble. For the majority of the book, he is not in his right mind. At the end his intelligent mind finally comes to rest and appears to let go of its compulsions.

Herzog is a strange book. I can understand why it is considered a masterwork and the comparison to James Joyce’s Ulysses is apt since both share a stream of consciousness manner of narration. Due to the erratic nature of Herzog’s mind the story is often slow moving and then it can jump suddenly when his mind seizes on another compulsion. I struggled to find Herzog a likeable character since he is so enmeshed in his own ego and madness. Reading a novel in first person forces the reader to see the character through their own eyes and Herzog seemed to have an inflated opinion of his abilities while still not liking the person he had become. Perhaps the genius of the work is seeing through the eyes of madness. I can appreciate it as an experiment in literature but as a novel it is not one that I will probably return to. All experiences of fiction are subjective and there are many readers throughout the last sixty years who have made this a classic.

 

Review of All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 2:All the Kings Men by Robert Penn Warren

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

Robert Penn Warren’s story set in the political culture of an unnamed southern state where an idealistic self-taught lawyer transforms into a charismatic political operative who eventually becomes governor and is looking ahead to a run for the senate. Willie Talos,[1] or the boss as his staff call him, quickly becomes a savvy and forceful political operator wielding both his popularity, but also using pressure, knowledge of indiscretions, and occasionally bribery. Yet, the story is told from the perspective of Jack Burden, a former journalist and historian, who becomes a personal assistant to Willie Talos and the story of Willie Talos is the story of Jack Burden and several others who become intwined in this tale of power, desire, relationships, and perceptions. There are aspects of the story that are incredibly relevant even sixty years after its publication. There are times where the plot meanders along as Jack Burden reflects on the path that led him to this point in his life, but ultimately in the end his past and Willie Talos’ present come together in an ending where secrets are revealed and many lives are shattered (and a few are reborn).

Jack Burden’s childhood in Burden’s Landing with his friends Anne and Adam Stanton, his attractive mother and her string of men, his father who walks out on his mother, and Judge Stanton who acts as a second father to Jack all find their way into the story’s progress. Adam and Anne Stanton are the children of a previous governor and Adam, as a popular surgeon, becomes the boss’ choice to run the new hospital he is building for the state. Anne was Jack Burden’s romantic interest growing up and although both she and her brother initially disapprove of the boss, she eventually becomes entangled in an affair with Governor Talos. The Judge appears at the beginning of the story and is a major part of Jack Burden’s narration. Once the Judge endorses another candidate other than the one Governor Talos is backing Jack is instructed to dig into the Judge’s past for any indiscretion. Through his digging into the past, he does discover a time when the Judge took a bribe and when his friend Governor Stanton had covered for him.

Robert Penn Warren does a masterful job of brining all the strings together in the end. The boss becomes manipulated by a political opponent due to his son’s possible impregnation of a young woman and becomes mired in the type of corruption he campaigned against. The investigation of Judge Irwin now becomes important because the judge has influence on the politician attempting to manipulate the boss. When Jack reveals the secret he learned about Judge Irwin, it causes the judge to commit suicide and Jack’s mother in her grief reveals that the Judge was his father. The revelation of the boss’ affair with Anne Stanton by one of the boss’ staff members and former lovers ultimately results in Adam Stanton shooting the boss and taking his own life. The boss also becomes manipulated by a political opponent due to his son’s possible impregnation of a young woman and becomes mired in the type of corruption he campaigned against. Secrets built upon secrets are ultimately revealed and the survivors have to find a new way with the boss, the judge, and the surgeon no longer there to be paragons in their world. Jack Burden eventually makes peace with the reality that each of these men, though not perfect, were good men and he begins to reassemble his life with Anne and the man who raised him as a father.

All the King’s Men is a well told story. There are times where the prose slows the story down or we spend time caught in Jack Burden’s meandering mind, but ultimately it paints a world where power can corrupt, where good men (and women) do occasionally act in unethical ways, where secrets exercise power, and where the sticky world of politics is populated by people struggling for power, influence, and wealth. It is an uncomfortable read at times because it embodies many of the prejudices of the 1930s and 1940s when it is written but it also feels appropriate for its narration of a brash populism that seems to be resurgent in the United States.


[1] Earlier editions named the Governor Willie Stark based on the editor’s recommendation, but Robert Penn Warren wanted his last name to be Talos and that was used throughout the Restored Edition that I read through.

Review of the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 53: The Lord of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books. I first read this work as a teenager and I return and read through it every couple of years. I continue to be amazed at the depth of the story and how I continue to be enriched by each reading. Tolkien is a master at developing a complex world complete with complex cultures, languages, and histories which form the backdrop for the incredible journey of Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Boromir. The work is a classical battle between good and evil on an epic stage and throughout the work spins a defiant hope in the midst of incredible odds.

The test of any great book is how it holds up after multiple readings. Even after walking the paths with the characters many times and knowing how the journey unfolds it still remains a phenomenal journey which continues to reveal new aspects each time. The battle scenes at Helms Deep and Minas Tirith are some of the most moving fantasy battle scenes I’ve read both in their reserve in the details of the battle and their stirring defiant language that lets the reader ride with Rohirrim or stand against the darkness or Mordor.

This is a hopeful epic of heroic perseverance with good ultimately triumphing over evil. After reading several nihilistic or fatalistic works on this list that narrate the ending of an age it was enjoyable to revisit this rich story where the protagonists come through the darkness and emerge into the new age they helped form. Even though the main protagonist, Frodo, comes out permanently scarred and unable to enjoy the homecoming at the end of the work he leaves behind a hopeful new beginning for his beloved Shire, a world safe under the reign of Aragorn, and a place where Sam can raise his new family and tell the stories of the fellowship to new generation.

Review of American Pastoral by Philip Roth

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 3: American Pastoral by Philip Roth

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

American Pastoral is a moving novel which follows the destruction of the world of Seymour (Swede) Levov in the aftermath of his daughter’s bombing of the Rimrock post office and general store in protest of the Vietnam War. Swede Levov is the good-looking high school multi-sport star who eventually joins the U.S. Marines at the end of World War II and then returns home, marries Miss New Jersey, takes over the family glove business and builds a successful life. Although the beautiful couple come from different backgrounds (Swede’s family is Jewish while his wife Dawn is Irish Catholic) the manage to construct a seemingly perfect environment to raise their one daughter, Merry. Yet, their daughter rejects everything about their family life and eventually becomes a part of a violent anti-American group which opposes the actions of the United States in Vietnam and the American capitalistic worldview. Merry plants a bomb and disappears leaving behind a wrecked family.

Swede Levov loved his work, his house, his family, and his life. He attempts to encounter life with an ‘expansive blessing of openness and vigor conferred by his hyperoptimism.’ He is a statuesque protagonist whose experience on the sports field, the Marine Corp, and business have shaped him to continually bear the burdens of others. When his daughter’s actions plunge his wife into a deep depression and shakes his community he attempts to maintain a firm foundation for his wife, his parents, his business, and his missing daughter. When he finally encounters his daughter years later and sees the wreckage of her life that he cannot save her from, he also begins to see the places where his own life and values have come undone. He stands powerless as the foundations of the life he so carefully tended are torn asunder to the delight of some of the more nihilistic characters in the book.

This is another book that is well written, and I can see why it is a part of the Time Magazine top 100 list. Many of these books tend towards a nihilistic and fatalistic perspective on society and humanity (also not surprising based on Lev Grossman’s writing) and seem to rail against the hyperoptimism of characters like Swede Levov. I really like the character of Swede and could identify with him in many ways. Even though I knew that the book was a story of the fall of the ‘golden child’ I wanted him to succeed. I may have read this book at some point in the past because some of the scenes were familiar. Philip Roth does a good job of character development even if he sometimes goes off on rambling almost stream of consciousness tangents that can make the work difficult to follow at times.

Review of A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels

Book 40: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

A Handful of Dust takes its title from the ominous words of T.S. Elliot’s The Wasteland, “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” Evelyn Waugh writes dialogue in a way that is easy to read, and the story’s pace and tone is light as it mocks the collapsing of the world of Tony Dust, and by extension many others who saw their way of life under threat by the changing cultural winds that occurred between the two World Wars in England. Tony Last loves his home, his wife, and his son and is very satisfied with their life on the gothic designed estate of Hetton. It is a world of attending church, watching his son ride horses, participating in social clubs, and managing the affairs of the estate. Yet, after seven years of marriage his wife, Brenda, becomes bored with this life and embarks on a path which brings unravels everything. She decides to begin an affair with a London man of limited ambition and interest named John Beaver. John, who still lives with his mother and has no regular responsibilities, is viewed by many in society as a bore with little prospects but Brenda’s presence invites him into many new places in London society.  Brenda conspires with John’s mother to purchase a flat in London, so that she may stay there for extended periods under the guise of studying economics while she engages in an open affair in London while her husband stays generally supportive of her and unaware in Hetton. Everything unravels when Tony and Brenda’s son is killed in an accident while he is out on a hunt with his father. Brenda asks for a divorce and Tony, humiliated but still the honorable English man attempts to grant her that. When Brenda and her lawyers make increasingly large demands, demands that would require the sale of the Hetton estate, Tony departs on an expedition to the unexplored regions of South America and never returns.

Evelyn Waugh writes well, and I can understand why this book is on the top 100 list. Like Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time, this is set in a time period and world that I don’t find greatly appealing and even though both works are dealing with the unraveling of that world they are not things I would seek out to read. With A Handful of Dust, I identified strongly with Tony Last and for personal reasons I really disliked Brenda’s shallow and careless actions which destroyed not only her marriage but the entire world of her husband. In my own story, I have been the husband whose wife embarked on an affair with a person who others looked upon as awkward and boorish. I was the last to know what was going on, and had several people come to me after the revelation and disclose that they had known but were afraid to say anything. Even though I may not have chosen to live in Tony Last’s world, I could empathize with the trauma he must have endured as it quickly is taken away from him and he finds himself in unfamiliar territory still attempting to be the person he once was. All reviews of any work of fiction are subjective, and although the work unearthed some painful memories for me, and it is not a genre or a time period that I find compelling it is well written and I can understand why many people enjoy its mocking of the collapse of this stilted and formal world. These brief reflections are, for me, a way of consolidating my thoughts after engaging with each work.

Reflection on A Death in the Family by James Agee

Time Magazine Top 100 Novels
Book 28: A Death in the Family by James Agee

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

A Death in the Family takes place in a couple days in the summer of 1915 mainly in Knoxville, Tennessee and the surrounding areas. Reading the book is a little disjointed since it brings together an unfinished manuscript after the author’s death and there are portions in the Penguin Classic edition, which I used, which are in italics to indicate that they may not be where the author intended in the manuscript. The story is about a family’s ordeal in the couple of days around the father’s sudden death in an accident. The book jumps between perspectives of the wife, the son, the daughter and other members of the family and touches on differences in religious practices and beliefs, the disfunction that can exist in extended families, and the impact and importance of the family as they move through grief.

As a pastor, I walk into this space pretty frequently and the author does a good job in describing many of the dynamics you may encounter. I, along with most of the characters in the book, dislike the priest in his rigid and cold way of approaching people in their grief but I have encountered people in religious roles who do more harm than good. The book speaks to the life in a town from the past and there are certain aspects that are both appealing and off putting about the description of life in Knoxville (particularly from the perspective of Rufus, the son) and some of the expectations of individuals based on gender and place in the family have changed since the 1910s, but much of the experience of sudden and intense grief would be recognizable for any time. Reading about a death in a family may not be an enjoyable experience, but the author does a good job of describing the difficult job of dealing with the aftermath of a world changing loss in the family.

Reflections on the Power and the Glory by Graham Greene


Time Magazine Top 100 Novels
Book 74: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene

This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.

The Power and the Glory is set an unnamed state where the persecution of the church is similar to the Mexican state of Tabasco in the 1930s. The governor of the state attempting to eliminate the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in his state by either eliminating the priests, closing the churches, eliminating alcohol, and punishing those who aid or hide clerics. The main character is a priest who has been traveling around the province conducting services for the past eight years and is the only non-married and still practicing priest remaining. His antagonist is a police lieutenant who zealously believes in the reforms of the government and spends the book chasing this final priest through the villages and countryside, eventually taking hostages in each village to deny the priest places he can return to.

The priest, who remains unnamed throughout the story, is also dealing with his own broken past where he as a ‘whisky priest’ had numerous sins which he could not confess to anyone: a daughter he had fathered in one of the villages he served, a fondness for alcohol, and his own questions about the church and the pious. Yet, even though the priest does not have a pristine past, he continues to attempt to carry out his ministry and even in the end knowingly walks into a trap to hear the confession of a murder. The lieutenant who has tracked him zealously and has an avid hatred of the church finds he can no longer hate the priest once he is captured and they speak. The book ends on a defiant note with the priest’s death, but in the aftermath another priest appears in town. The church and the priesthood somehow endured.

The land and the crippling poverty that many of the people face become characters in the book. The descriptions of the land with its heat, mosquitos, and beetles and the poverty of most of the villagers in the book make the environment appear almost hellish. The loss of the church has not alleviated the suffering of the people and in the minds of many of the characters it has made things worse. The church is not depicted as perfect nor and the priest has some of his harshest thoughts for the pious of the church. Yet, many people desire the services of the priest even in the midst of the danger until they begin taking and executing hostages from the villages to attempt to capture the priest.

The environment of the book and the slow pace of the priest’s movement from town to town gives the story a bit of an arid feel. It is hard to love the land as it is described, but it does evoke compassion for the people who live in this harsh place. The lieutenant is not an evil man, nor is the priest a saint and I found myself wishing both characters could find themselves in a different story.