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Pastoral by André Alexis
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Pastoral

by André Alexis

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A charming, short novel about a pastor moving into a parish in rural Ontario, Canada. Believable, silly and flawed characters mixed with a (dare I say) pastoral setting make this novel a thoroughly enjoyable read. Highly recommended! ( )
  jasonli | Jul 15, 2015 |
With its appealing balance of empathy and irreverence and a touch so supple it could walk on water, Pastoral invites us to pose such questions as we wander a milieu brimming with ordinary foibles and just enough bucolic tranquillity to inspire even those of little faith to contemplate the sublime....This novel’s pleasures indeed include a rich sense of place, but that sense comes without sentimentality, and that place is something one might just as easily flee from as call home. Pastoral beauty is certainly on offer, but Alexis’ fluid, evocative descriptions of the rural wonders that surround Barrow are much more than nostalgia for a childhood idyll or mere reverie for revere’s sake — they constitute the very heart of Pastoral’s unresolved/unresolvable crisis of faith.
 
In a modern context, the pastoral, with its whole-hearted celebration of feeling the grass between one’s toes, feels dangerously earnest, even naïve. It’s easy to imagine a 21st-century take as nothing more than a rudimentary Blue Velvet for shepherds: revealing the darkness lurking just behind that rural tranquility. Avoiding this low-hanging fruit is what makes André Alexis’s Pastoral a refreshing and, ultimately, more rewarding piece of work. Rather than take easy shots at the genre, the Giller-shortlisted author and essayist tries to honestly transport it to (more or less) the present day.... So perhaps Alexis has further genre revivals on the horizon. If that’s the case, I’ll be ready for them, glossary in hand.
 
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Only the billowing overcoat remains, everything else is made up. - Franz Kafka, Diaries (1912)
Dedication
To Jane Ruddell and Veronika Krausas and Roo Borson

And In Memoriam Eighteen
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Christopher Pennent had passed through a crisis of faith.
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from amazon ca :There were plans for an official welcome. It was to take place the following Sunday. But those who came to the rectory on Father Pennant's second day were the ones who could not resist seeing him sooner. Here was the man to whom they would confess the darkest things. It was important to feel him out. Mrs. Young, for instance, after she had watched him eat a piece of her macaroni pie, quietly asked what he thought of adultery.

André Alexis brings a modern sensibility and a new liveliness to an age-old genre, the pastoral.

For his very first parish, Father Christopher Pennant is sent to the sleepy town of Barrow. With more sheep than people, it is sleepily bucolic - too much Barrow Brew on Barrow Day is the rowdiest it gets. But things aren't so idyllic for Liz Denny, whose fiancé doesn't want to choose between Liz and his more worldly lover Jane, or for Father Pennant himself, whose faith is profoundly shaken by the miracles he witnesses - a mayor walking on water, intelligent gypsy moths and a talking sheep.
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For his very first parish, Father Christopher Pennant is sent to the sleepy town of Barrow. With more sheep than people, it's very bucolic, too much Barrow Brew on Barrow Day is the rowdiest it gets. Bu things aren't so idyllic for Liz Denny, whose fianc doesn't want to decide between Liz and his more worldly mistress Jane, and for Father Pennant himself, who greets some miracles of nature, mayors walking on water, talking sheep, with a profound crisis of faith.… (more)

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