Saturday, June 18, 2011

Book review of "Windknocker: A Novel of Friendship, Summer Sausage, and Last Gaspers," by Bud Malby

A concern for our ministry-which-is-the-store is the huge increase in self-published books that is thriving at this time. A bookstore can run efficiently when it buys books from well-known publishers and through distribution channels that encourage efficient ordering and delivery of books. We know that Church Publishing, Inc. is an Episcopal Church publisher, Abingdon Press is United Methodist, Westminster/John Knox Press is Presbyterian, and HarperOne is a non-denominational publisher that offers titles from a wide spectrum of interest categories. We can order books from a combination of publishers through our favorite book distributor. It is efficient and we are confident in the products that we will be receiving as well as confident in delivery dates for them.

It seems that every city has at least one self-publishing business and most cities have several of them. If I write a manuscript that I want to become a book I can offer it to several well-known publishers and wait for their rejection letters. Madeleine L’Engle received rejection letters from about thirty publishers until one accepted her manuscript. With that beginning L’Engle went on to write dozens of books that sold millions of copies and became an author that many publishers would have been thrilled to have “in their stable.”

My other choice is to take my manuscript that I want to become a book to a local self-publisher, pay them to print and bind one print run that will become my book. The average print run for a self-published book is twenty copies. For a bookstore to find good books that fit our niche market from hundreds of self-publishers and small print runs is a formidable task.

We found one.

Windknocker is a novel about two life-long friends. They have many boyhood adventures, lose track of each other as young adults, then reconnect later in life. Their friendship seems as close as twin brothers. One of the boys, “Mew,” becomes a Catholic priest prior to the tectonic plate shift that was the result of the Vatican II council, and well before clergy sexual abuse of children made the news. He lived through and beyond the changes of Vatican II and worked with children and clergy during the abuse scandal reports and lawsuits.

Mew’s friend, Leezie, takes a different path in life, serves in the Army, is traumatized by his work in war, marries and has a child. Leezie does not have a church affiliation but he has an active spiritual life.

The first time I began the book I put it down after reading less than 50 pages. It was a story about two young boys and their life in a small town. It was somewhat interesting, but not enough to keep me reading with all of the other commitments in my life at that time.

Recently I picked it up again and gave it another try. Soon I had difficulty putting it down. I became connected with the lives of these two very close friends. The book takes us through their whole lives. It informs me about deep friendship that can be stronger than any other relationship. It also informs me about the Church and the spectrum of life of Catholic clergy, from loneliness to the power of authority, and how power helps a priest handle loneliness.

The author, Bud Malby, also critiques the institution of the Church. He exposes and describes where the institution pulls the laity and clergy away from God. Malby also illuminates what can happen when a strong faith and commitment to love your neighbor combines with deep-seated understanding that God loves and accepts you as you are more than you can possibly imagine. At the end of the story Malby offers us a riveting comparison of two lives and their impact upon those that know them.

I am glad that we stumbled across Windknocker by Bud Malby. It is well worth reading and pondering its message.

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