March by Geraldine Brooks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
What can I say, I'm a big fan of Geraldine books and I loved this. Great story, interesting characters and good writing. March tells the story of the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
Mr March is an interesting character. He is a minister in the universalist tradition and so has basically kept the morality of Christianity removed from the power and hope that is in Christ. As the story proceeds we see this as he ministers to the dying and he realises that he really has nothing to offer. As he confonts the moral complexity of war and the behaviour of people around him, and ultimately his own failures and limitations he comes undone and he really never comes to terms with these things.
Towards the end there is an exchange between Grace (an educated slave girl) and March:
"You are not God. You do not determine the outcome. The outcome is not the point."
"'The what, pray, is the point?' His voice was a dry, soft rattle, like a breeze through a bough of dead leaves.
"The point is the effort. That you, believing what you believed--what you sincerely believed, including the commandment 'thou shalt not kill'--acted upon it. To believe, to act, and to have events confound you--I grant you, that is hard to bear. But to believe, and not to act, or to act in a way that every fiber of your soul held was wrong--how can you not see? That is what would have been reprehensible." (258)
I loved the way Brooks handled the juxtaposition of of March's view of himself, the people around him and the events compared with those of the other characters. It was particularly illuminating when we see some of the events from Marmies point of view. While she is also passionate about social justice issues she is also a realist and I had to cheer late in the book when she concludes that she loves this ruined man. That is what love is all about seeing the flaws but loving anyway.
I have now completed the Sunshine Smackdown Challenge. My books were:
1) The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
2) March by Geraldine Brooks
3) Sophie's Choice by William Styron
After reading these three books I would have to say I'm a fan of the pullitzers. Maybe I just had bad choice for my National, The Fixer which was my double dipper was fantastic.