Two men discover God on two different paths in Malby’s curiously titled first novel.
In some unspecified part of Middle America, two boys bond as toddlers in their rural hometown during an era in the 20th century when outhouses were the norm and child mortality rates were high. The boys grow apart and reconnect during manhood, finishing their long lives together. As youths, they become alienated by Windknocker, another name for God, which is further explained about halfway into the novel. Yet the titular Windknocker ultimately unites them and gives purpose to their lives. To cover the decades of their friendship, the narrative zips along like a skipped rock over water, pausing only to focus on key events in the characters’ lives. Often, these moments are what the two men look back to later in life as they attempt to resolve their differences regarding the meaning and practice of faith. Mew, the main character, takes the formal route through the Catholic priesthood during the tumult of Vatican II. His best friend, Leezie, lives in an informal street ministry as a laborer and soldier in World War II. As boys and men, they live on opposite sides of the tracks—literally at first, and figuratively later, with personalities as different as their origins, lifestyles and faith. Mew’s faith is intellectual (“religion wasn’t about experience but working toward perfection”); whereas Leezie’s faith is intuitive, particularly after he’s “borned again” during a revival meeting. Malby tells their story in memoir format through Mew’s voice, diverting occasionally into an omniscient observer—sometimes transitioning like an emcee—to cover episodes in Leezie’s life. The switches in point of view aren’t disruptive, although they give the narrative an uneven flow. Malby’s straightforward prose contains short, evocative descriptions—“I was sure her eyes sparkled even when she was asleep”—which will comfortably take readers into intimate discussions of faith that are thought-provoking independent of religious perspective.
An impressively thoughtful expression of spirituality.