Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Review:- David GUTERSON – “Our lady of the Forest”

Year Published: - 2003
Where the book was from:- My own copy
ISBN: - 0 7475 6045 5
Pages: - 325pp
Genre: - General fiction
Location:- North Fork, Washington
How I came across it: - Pensby Library booksale
Rating: - ***** ****
One sentence summary:- The story of a young girl’s visions (or delusions?) and the impact it has on a number of the residents of the area where it takes place.

Describe the plot without giving anything away:-
The story of a teenage girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary. Ann Holmes seems an unlikely candidate for a revelation. A sixteen-year-old runaway, she is an itinerant mushroom picker who lives in a tent. One November afternoon, in the foggy woods of North Fork, Washington, the Virgin comes to her, clear as day. Is this delusion, a product of her occasional drug use, or a true calling to God? Gradually word spreads, and thousands converge upon the already troubled town having an instant impact on the local residents.

General comments:- 

Guterson has a great way with words but very unconventional as the quotations below demonstrate.  Tthis is writing by a skilled craftsman.

A fair amount of soul-searching is inevitable among the various witnesses to Ann’s visions. In turn there is opportunity for a bit of soul-searching among the book’s readership. This is one of those books that makes you think outside the box.

“Well who’s the patron saint of lunatics?”
“Strange you should ask because I happen to know. Christina the Astonishing, she was called. Her feast day is my birthday, July twenty fourth. She’s also the patron of therapists.”

There are no words, God is ineffable, the name of God cannot be spelled, to look for God with the tools of man is like trying to capture the sun’s light in our hands, perhaps, he thought, I should have been a Jew, that quaint Jewish simile makes perfect sense...

Did God make sense, though, in the end? The God who turned Lot’s wife into a salt pillar merely for looking back at the brimstone falling as prophesied across the plain, the God who spoke with Abraham as though they were negotiating the price of a used car to determine the number of righteous men it would take to save the two cities? God wanted fifty but Abraham worked him down to ten by employing deference, humility and flattery, I who am but dust and ashes, let not the Lord be angry and so on, the same God who later toyed with Abraham by asking him to bind his son, arrange the boy on a sacrificial pyre, then slit his throat with a knife. Just kidding, said God at the last moment. Just checking to see how loyal you are. God the insecure Mafia don. God the malevolent psychotherapist.

AUTHOR Notes:-
David Guterson was born in Seattle in 1956. Guterson received his M.A. from the University of Washington, where he studied under the writer Charles Johnson. It was there that he developed his ideas about the moral function of literature: "Fiction writers shouldn't dictate to people what their morality should be," he said in a recent interview. "Yet not enough writers are presenting moral questions for reflection, which I think is a very important obligation."

After moving to Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, Guterson taught English at the local high school and began writing journalism for Sports Illustrated and Harper's magazine, where he is now a contributing editor. His books include a collection of short stories, The Country Ahead of Us, the Country Behind (coming from Vintage in Spring 1996), Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense, and Snow Falling on Cedars, which won the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award.

1 comment:

  1. Whilst it is a good book I'd say it's nowhere near as good as the other two of his books that I've read. Snow Falling On Cedars is the better book although East Of The Mountains is very good too.


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