Ann Holmes seems an unlikely candidate for revelation. A sixteen-year-old runaway, she is an itinerant mushroom picker who lives in a tent. Her past has been hardscrabble. Then 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. For Tom Cross, an embittered logger who's been out of work since his son was paralyzed in a terrible accident, the possibility that Ann's visions are real offers a last chance for him and his son. As Father Collins searches both his own soul and Ann's; as Carolyn struggles with her less than admirable intentions; as Tom alternates between despair and hope; "Our Lady of the Foreset" combines suspense, grit and humour in a story of faith at a contemporary crossroad.
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David Guterson's Our Lady of the Forest navigates between the mystical and the cynical in its slowly paced telling of a Marian encounter in North Fork, Washington. The story opens in the North Fork campground among homeless mushroom pickers. The town is reeling from the loss of its logging industry, and its residents make their way by scavenging odd jobs and selling the produce of the forest. Living in the campground, 16-year-old Anne Holmes is a runaway asthmatic whose recent interest in Catholicism follows a period of petty thievery, drug use, and frequent masturbation (an interest that Guterson notes is shared by the town priest, Father Don Collins). While off on her rounds of mushrooming one morning, she encounters a bright light--the Virgin Mary, she believes. Soon, she has drawn a band of thousands as people flock to North Fork to witness the vision and be healed. But, through Carolyn Greer, a world-weary fellow-mushroom-picker who longs for nothing more than an extended vacation to "Cabo"-- readers learn that Anne actually sees nothing, or at least no one else shares the Marian apparition that gives Anne lofty commands each day.
At times Guterson lets his characters' pettiness, opportunism, and cynicism overrun the delicacy of Anne's world. Carolyn's vehement atheism and materialistic languor undermine what could have been a stronger counter-point to her spiritual friend. Even Father Collins, who struggles between fatherly compassion and sexual longing for the young visionary, is too full of self-loathing for readers to embrace him. Yet, the novel's exploration of Anne's abrupt and intense faith pierces the narrative and brings light to it. And as Anne's visions grow in intensity and her health begins to fail, one can't help but long for divine intervention on her behalf. --Patrick O'KelleyFrom the Back Cover:
“This is Guterson’s best book.” – Chicago Sun-Times
“Another virtuoso performance from David Guterson . . . Gripping . . . Marks an expansion of his vision . . . Transporting . . . Balances on the tension between belief and despair without ever losing its sense of mystery.” – L.A. Times Book Review
“Spellbinding . . . Mesmerizing . . . Brilliantly conceived . . . A marvelous and affecting spectacle, both timeless and contemporary, that makes for electric reading.” – Seattle Times
“Explores a complex and challenging set of questions without a hint of condescension . . . The dimensions of this compelling novel are catholic in the larger sense.” – Christian Science Monitor
“An intense and affecting journey of faith, miracle and humanity.” – Denver Post
“Blends some of the appeal of Stephen King’s uncanny tales . . . and John Updike’s fables . . . Thoroughly absorbing . . . Guterson writes virtuoso dialogue.” – Seattle Weekly
“Magnificent . . . Reading it, I kept putting [Guterson] in the best possible literary company . . . I was in a state of elation while I was reading . . . A marvelous book, in every sense.” –Jonathan Raban
“An intense, gripping read . . . Finely etched characters, the most intriguing and fully realized cast in any Guterson novel . . . Should resonate with many readers searching for belief in the post-9/11 world.” – Seattle Post-Intelligencer
“Surely one of this year’s best novels . . . Outstanding . . . [Displays] heart, compassion, and a willingness to tackle the most fundamental, and insolvable questions of faith, belief, and personal responsibility.” – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
From the Hardcover edition.
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