Wheat That Springeth Green

J. F. Powers, Author
J. F. Powers, Author Alfred A. Knopf $18.95 (335p) ISBN 978-0-394-49609-2
Reviewed on: 08/05/1988
Release date: 08/01/1988
Joe Hackett is a 44-year-old priest living in the Midwest in 1968. Once, when he was young and training for the priesthood, he was fanatical; he wore a hair shirt and gave up his vices: ``smokes, sweets, snacks, snooker, and handball.'' Now he is middle-aged, comfortable and rather complacent, a bit of a Babbitt. He drinks too much, is overweight and over-concerned with appearances. He goes through the motions with his middle-class parish. Friction arises when a new assistant arrives. Just out of seminary, Bill hasin Joe's jaded eyescertain naive ideas. It's a gentlemanly conflict: the men like each other, and, as Joe cultivates their ``priestly fellowship,'' through the upheavals of surreptitious parish fund-raising, a quiet evening drink or afternoon ball playing, he recognizes in his assistant his own idealistic, younger self. As a result of this introspection, and of the bureaucratic necessities that the structure of the church imposes, Joe changes from the middle-management timeserver he is surprised to realize he has become, to a less secular, more spiritual person. In his first novel in 25 years, since the National Book Award-winning Morte D'Urban , Powers writes in a casual, yet supple style. Brilliantly using details to illuminate both character and scene, and exhibiting an unerring ear for dialogue, reduced to its essentials, strikingly lifelike, often riotously funny, Powers succeeds in conveying the nuts and bolts of a clergyman's life even as he illuminates the hidden corners of his soul. (August)
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