Our Lady Of The Forest
2 journalers for this copy...
I bought this book because I'd already read Snow Falling on Ceders (excellent!), but be warned it has a very different style and theme. I enjoyed reading it, despite its alienation or even because of it.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Upstairs on window shelf
ps. I think I just missed you on Sat, I came in to check on the OBCZ and found quite a full shelf. Thanx for your support :)
Guterson moves on to mainland this time (after Snow Falling on Cedars), but stays in the wet, temperate rainforests of Oregon (oops - Washington I think - correction by the detailed review by goatgrrl, as ever!) and the Pacific coast. ‘Our Lady of the Forest’ is a Marian apparition in the woods (natch!) at North Fork, a dying logging town. The main story is about visionary Ann Holmes ‘Ann of Oregon’ and the huge circus of believers and non-believers that surrounds her. DG has a great feel for flawed characters; from Ann herself (the abused ‘tangential castoff’ and mushroom-picker), her friend Carolyn (self-proclaimed spokesperson and cynic), the young local priest Father Collins (who doubts his own beliefs and becomes besotted with Ann), and many more. In the end, it is the self-destructive Tom Cross, seeking some sort of retribution for himself and salvation for his paralyzed son, who brings the story to a climax...or rather an anti-climax. I think I was looking for more of a spiritual ending, or at least a clearer conclusion. I think the clues were there early on though, in a conversation between Father Collins and Carolyn, about the existence of the Virgin Mary, "You doubt with enormous certainty. No I’m certain without any doubt." Maybe in the end its all about belief and doubt? Or later, some reflection by Father Collins, ‘He found himself thinking of mortality...which was always the subject behind all subjects – sex, the universe, God.’
Despite the characterization and plot, the real stars (as with ‘Cedars’) are the landscape and weather, and Guterson’s loving and pains-taking descriptions of the ancient dripping woodlands, the leaking sky, the mossy ‘sea-green cathedral’, the fungi, and the ever-present birth and decay, as if the constant flow of water and raw nature are metaphors for man’s elemental and constant struggle with existence. Religion surely is one of the main ways that civilisations have always tried to reconcile the physical with the meta-physical; apparations and other psychic phenomena are examples of where these 2 worlds cross-over.
Lastly, a couple of interesting things I picked up; 'Christina the Astonishing', patron saint of lunatics and therapists, as Carolyn wryly points out, "Doctor and patient. How convenient." And again, the pragmatist Carolyn, who is aware of Blaise Pascal’s wager which holds that, ‘the skeptic should believe in God, since if there is a God then belief’s the right call, and if there isn’t, no harm’.