Tim Parks had a lovely story in the Dec. 8th issue of The New Yorker.
“Reverend” is the tale of Thomas Sanders’s relationship with his late father, a fervent minister. A dogged persistence and a spirit of inquiry endear us to Thomas as he recalls “watershed” moments from his Father’s life – spirited sermons, the “thrashings” he gave Thomas’s brother, the man’s “aura of vulnerability,” and a nervous breakdown that precipitated the family’s move from the country to North London when the narrator was ten. It is a stirringly human portrait of a “hot” personality coming into contact with other, “colder” family members. The measured pacing and introspective voice lend humility and suspense to the story as we see the Father and his wife speaking in tongues and leading a failed exorcism of the wayward older brother. In the end, we receive a beautiful image of Thomas and his father going for a swim in the “slow gray swell” of the ocean.
This piece reminded me a bit of an earlier story in The New Yorker called “Ordinary Sins,” by the 5 Under 35 writer, Kristin Valdez Quade. Both stories feature complicated clergyman who seem to have failed somehow in their pursuits. However, the priest in “Ordinary Sins” experiences a crisis of faith, while Thomas’s Father is a more conservative man who retains his faith all along.