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Oh, it would be years ago now, but at one time a minister lived with his small daughter in a town up north near the Sabbanock River, up where the river is narrow and the winters used to be especially long.
–Elizabeth Stout - Abide with me - c.2006

Tyler Caskey is a minister in a small New England town. His wife, Lauren, passed away just over a year ago. Since then his youngest daughter lives with Tyler’s mother, coming up to visit at weekends. His eldest daughter, Katherine, has been almost speechless since her mother died. Only five years old she doesn’t really understand what is going on around her.

Abide with MeOnly recently I read Strout’s Olive Kitteredge, after watching the tv adaptation, and seeing as I really enjoyed it though it would be a good idea to read more of her books. [ref]I also need to read more of Nicola Griffith & Margaret Forster[/ref] Abide with me is her second book, and in many ways it has a similar feel to Olive, it is all about every day people and every day events.

The death of Lauren is not an important event to the world at large, but to her husband and children it is a tragedy, and of course it has ripples in the community in which she lived. Tyler is a respected, well-liked minister. But the people of West Annett weren’t too sure about Lauren herself. She was different from them, with her “fashionable” clothes. They didn’t understand her, and she didn’t understand them, nor did she try all that hard in fairness.

It is a lovely book, although one that deals with grief and death. It also deals a lot with faith and religion, but more so with the nature of people. They are all flawed, of course as we all are, but Strout never seems to judge them for that. And characters that I, as a reader, took a dislike to initially were later, not rehabilitated, but shown in a more favourable light. And of course the reverse also happens.

It is a lovely slow revealing of Tyler’s life, his meeting Lauren and her rich family. The hints of abuse in her past. [ref]Okay, that’s not lovely, but the writing throughout the book is [/ref] Tyler’s grief at her death, but also his guilt and avoidance of actually grieving. He tried to continue on, not exactly as it was before, but almost, and this book tells how that grief comes out.

I do think that maybe the ending is a little rushed, and maybe a little “happily ever after”. Nevertheless it was a book really worth reading, despite my lack of religion and belief.

Post Author: Fence