Exiles - Ron Hansen

Ron Hansen’s beautiful and sad Exiles (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $23) is a fictional account of two historically-based stories: the Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins’s effort to discipline his creative spirit and live a more obedient life, and a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of England in 1875. Most of the Deutschland’s passengers and crew were finally saved, but 64 died, among them five Franciscan nuns on their way to America. Hopkins had been a brilliant student at Oxford; influenced by Cardinal Newman, he converted to Catholicism and became a priest. In order to conform to the demands of his superiors, he gave up writing poetry, but the shipwreck loosened something in him. Hopkins was so moved by the victims’ deaths that he wrote a long poem (included in the back of the book). His poetry was not recognized while he was alive and only became appreciated decades after his death, when it was rediscovered by Virginia Woolf and the modernists.

My favorites of Ron Hansen’s novels are about the challenges of faith. (Mariette in Ecstasy is another.) The Exiles (Picador, $14) of the title are the great British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, banished to Ireland, and five Franciscan nuns who were sent to America to work. Hopkins, from a well-off family, was a university student at Oxford when he converted to Catholicism. A brilliant and original mind, he was out of step with the demands of strict obedience. For a long time he gave up poetry, but an 1875 freak shipwreck on the Thames that killed 44 passengers, including five nuns from Germany, loosened something in him and he wrote a long poem in honor of the lost sisters (included in the book). Two years later he wrote “a clutch of poems that were so original and are now so esteemed.” This arresting book is about the creative spirit that disturbs ordinary men.

Exiles: A Novel By Ron Hansen Cover Image
$19.00
ISBN: 9780312428341
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - June 23rd, 2009

The Good Thief - Hannah Tinti

An orphan, a missing hand, a con man: With these ingredients Hannah Tinti cooks up a delicious treat of a novel. When Benjamin Nab spies Ren at St. Anthony's Orphanage, he sees a one-handed meal ticket with instant sympathetic appeal. When Ren walks out the gate with Benjamin, he sees a loving connection to a family he's never known. What follows shakes both of their assumptions. Ren quickly transcends sympathy and shows that he is eponymous "thief" in their little outfit. Meanwhile, Benjamin's true intentions become more and more mysterious as his schemes become more and more ambitious. Memorable characters, authoritative narration and seemingly inexhaustible intrigue make this a book you'll want to read all at once.

The Good Thief: A Novel By Hannah Tinti Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780385337465
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Dial Press Trade Paperback - August 11th, 2009

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