ORDINARY TIME by A.G. Mojtabai


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A slice-of-life novel, set in the Bible belt of Texas during hard times, that's a cross between Sherwood Anderson and Flannery O'Connor: Mojtabai (Autumn, A Stopping Place, etc.) successfully evokes the daily rhythms of life in a small desperate town--and the confused groping after faith in bad times. Ordinary time is that period when ""the mystery of Christ in all its fullness is celebrated."" The story centers on Henrietta, owner of Henrietta's Cemetery-Restaurant, town meeting-place; Father Gilvary, an old priest going blind; and Val, a drifter who gets off his bus in Durance on a whim. Henrietta is ""always waiting,"" but at least she ""knows she is saved, that's the main thing."" She's been told by a revival sister that she has ""the gift of discernment,"" and she hires Val, who becomes the catalyst of the plot (such as it is). Mostly, Mojtabai provides lots of day-to-day detail and Americana (Henrietta knows ""how to train fleas""). Notable is the revival meeting of Brother Shad at the Pentecostal Church: ""Anybody else that wants God?"" The priest, full of doubts, makes his rounds, troubled by defections from his church, and Henrietta thinks a good deal about which church by attend. Meanwhile, Val, a murky presence even to himself, has had selective amnesia, but finally remembers a courtroom and a violent threat to his wife. Then on All Souls' Day, Henrietta finds Cleat, a troubled boy who has taken to Val, in a trash can, where he's still alive but bloodied. Val, the eternal stranger, has hitchhiked off for New Mexico and Los Angeles, while Henrietta, musing again at her restaurant, ""is done waiting,"" for ""she's had her share of things."" Mojtabai manages to write about ordinary things without being ordinary, and to sketch out these earthy trials without forcing their religious issues.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday