Some books are to be gulped down like cold water on a warm summer’s day. Others should be sipped like a cup of hot tea. Frederick Buechner’s novel Godric is the latter. At times profound, at times bawdy, always beautiful on its metrical feet, this work of historical fiction about a medieval English hermit both charms and troubles the reader, alternately plunging to the depths of human depravity and then surging to lofty spiritual heights. Here’s one of my favorite passages, on prayer:
What’s prayer? It’s shooting shafts into the dark. What mark they strike, if any, who’s to say? It’s reaching for a hand you cannot touch. The silence is so fathomless that prayers like plummets vanish into the sea. You beg. You whimper. You load God down with empty praise. You tell him sins that he already knows full well. You seek to change his changeless will. Yet Godric prays the way he breathes, for else his heart would wither in his breast. Prayer is the wind that fills his sail. Else drift with witless tides. And sometimes, by God’s grace, a prayer is heard.
It’s no wonder Godric was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.