KEEPING THE FAITH by Carol Clewlow
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That's how we live our lives, waiting, always waiting. All so many souls. . .waiting for the clouds to roll back, listening for the sound of trumpets."" The English author of the strong, successful A Woman's Guide to Adultery (1989) contains in this brief, moving, and disturbing novel the peculiar Gog-and-Magog inner struggles of an individual reared in a strenuous fundamentalist religion--struggles to achieve self-determination within and without the severe boundaries of the faith. Maud is a member of the Brethren (a sect marked as ""odd"" by the village ""which believed in keeping God in his place""). Only child of her timid, solemnly believing and observing parents, Maud knows, Gospel-reared, that she must be ""born again"" and saved, and that she is a sinner (she doesn't know what sin is, but she knows she's sinned). Throughout childhood Maud observes the Brethren in the Gospel Hall--how humility is demanded of the women; and how threatening is the elders' ""vigilant concern for another's soul."" Inevitably, though, the World beckons, luring with parties, dancing, and boys. As a young teen, Maud is also forced to prepare for baptism, terrified that the ""privacy"" of her soul is about to be invaded. But during the rite there's the discovery that her soul is her own and she ""has risen again"" from baptismal waters, ""undetected."" An establishment clergyman has let slip the news that God is inside us--that ""people must find their own God."" Maud has triumphed--she thinks--over a lifelong combatant. For a while, she leads two lives--falls in love, sleeps with the son of the owner of the factory where she works--while her parents grieve and wither. As an adult, long gone from her village, Maud returns for the funeral of an old uncle and Elder. There are glimpses of her life in recent years: the dying days of gentle people, a paper cross tossed sardonically to a lover; Gospel texts and calendars that followed her on her travels. But in the graveyard there's also a ""terrible yearning"" that tears at the heart--""elusive and mysterious and melancholy."" Like Chaim Potok, Clewlow catches the intensity and the impossible, angry involvement in a demanding faith, and some passages here echo the ancient sinewy rhythms of the King James Bible--thumped and explicated. Stylish, intelligent, and acute.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Poseidon/Simon & Schuster