Church of the Dog by Kaya McLaren
The lovely folks at FSB sent me a shiny new copy of this novel, which sounded like it would blend it beautifully with my recent reading of Garden Spells - especially when Karen Addison Allen blurbed this book herself!
This novel is told in the narrative voice of four characters - Mara, the dreamy outside, Daniel, the grandson fighting to find his life, Earl, who runs a ranch and knows he's not long for this world, and Edith, his devoted farmwife. I really liked the switching points of view as these four characters intersect, interact, and form their own family out in the wilds of the cattle ranch Earl owns. There are other characters, of course (Daniel's roommates provide a lot of levity), but the points of view remain the same throughout the book.
This novel has a touch of mysticism, in that Mara can see auras, and can travel through dreams, and has some unique views on the institution of churches, which make it thought provoking but not in a "beat you over the head" way. I also love the visual imagery of the story - from Mara's self created "Church of the Dog" to the scenes in the snow to the everyday workings of a cattle ranch - all of it is told in lovely and evocative prose.
This is a gentle book - quiet writing and warm characters - where there are a few huge events, but the equilibrium of the book never tilts the reader completely over, if you know what I mean. A perfect read for an afternoon on a shady front porch with a glass of lemonade nearby (well, that's how I read it, anyway). Recommended!