In my mind, Buechner’s genius storytelling is at its height in this historical
fiction novel about Godric, a twelfth-century Anglo-Saxon hermit.
Buechner plunges you into the earthy, honest, yet spiritually profound world
of Godric, a hermit who is revered as a holy man but certainly doesn’t
see himself as a saint. The story is told by Godric himself. He’s defiantly
telling the real version of his story since he’s sure the monk (Reginald)
who’s writing about him is cleaning it up too much. Anyway, he tells us
all about his checkered past and all sorts of things, like how he really didn’t
want to touch the man with leprosy he healed in his much-touted miracle.
The miracle of the writing in this book is in how Buechner writes in the lyrical
cadence and with the consciousness of the time and place of the story—and
I suspect actually in all Anglo-Saxon-based words as well—but in a way
that it’s easy for the modern reader to join him there. He writes this
story in a way that compels you to think about big themes without ever getting
in the way of the narrative.
He lets the story of Godric tell itself (though he helps it a little where
history falls short of details). And by so doing he draws his readers into this
story of sin and faith and hermitage and self-mortification, concepts not familiar
to most modern minds but made fascinating in this Pulitzer-nominated book, which
is among my all-time favorites.