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A DRESSER OF SYCAMORE TREES by Garret Keizer

A DRESSER OF SYCAMORE TREES

The Finding of a Ministry

By Garret Keizer

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-670-82723-1
Publisher: Viking

 An overwrought account of a churchman's daily life, written by an English teacher who serves as ``lay vicar'' of a small Vermont parish. Keizer seems to be a likeable and earnest young man; he is certainly guileless. We are given, at the start, an extremely meticulous account of the undefined yearnings that led him first to consider, then to reject, the vocation of an Anglican priest. He chose instead to become a schoolteacher and accepted a post in the ``Northeast Kingdom,'' a remote area of upper Vermont. His religious convictions remained strong, however, and he became deeply involved in the activities of his local parish--so much so that he was asked to assume leadership of it when the pastor retired. It is obvious that Keizer was the right man for the job- -his love for his work and his parishioners is proclaimed on nearly every page--but once this much has been established, he seems to have very little to say. His ordinary routine of prayer and work (Sunday services, visits to the sick, committee meetings) is duly set forth, but it is hard to see the drama that Keizer imputes to these events. Basically, this is a story that we have heard many times before: It takes all kinds; most people are decent; many are unhappy; quite a few are confused; and some are just no good. Keizer's fond excitement, while undoubtedly sincere, seems out of all proportion, and his apocalyptic prose--a monastery chapel, for instance, is described as ``a fragment of Eden full of possibilities in which one vaguely heard a serpentine hissing''- -doesn't help matters along very much. Well intentioned but bland. Instead of strip-mining his life for morals and epiphanies, Keizer would have done better to let events speak for themselves.