The Reverend Dr. William A. Evertsberg

During part of our sabbatical, Doogie and Kathy and I drove 7,000 miles to visit ten national parks, so we had ample time to listen to many books.

We thought it might be fun to listen to Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway while we were actually driving the Lincoln Highway, which is essentially I-80, from New York to San Francisco. It turns out The Lincoln Highway isn’t really about The Lincoln Highway, but it tells one arresting, twisting tale after another. I couldn’t decide if Mr. Towles wanted to pay homage to Chaucer or to Homer, but one major character is boxcar vagabond Ulysses, so I guess there’s my answer. Eight-year-old Billy is the most charming fictional character I’ve encountered in recent years. The book is 16 hours long, so it’s a commitment.

We also listened to Anxious People by Fredrick Backman, who also wrote A Man Called OveAnxious People is about eight—you guessed it—anxious people who are also flawed and inept but unwitting vehicles of God’s amazing grace. They forge an unlikely community of strangers who do not belong together but offer each other forgiveness and second chances while comically, even accidentally, outwitting the authorities. Given what I do for a living, I couldn’t help but see these disparate, errant dramatis personae as a tiny congregation stumbling and limping along but eventually carrying each other straight toward heaven, or as close as you can get in this broken world.

We also half-read and half-listened to two books which might mean more to a minister than to you. Michelle Huneven’s Search is about a Search Committee at a Unitarian-Universalist church in California hunting for a new Senior Minister. Ms. Huneven, who must be a faithful parishioner somewhere, has such a sharp eye for congregational politics that her story had Kathy and me exchanging one sly, knowing smirk after another for hours.

Also, Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads, for three great reasons: (1) Jonathan Franzen is this generation’s John Updike in both prose style and family saga; (2) Crossroads is set in suburban Chicago; and (3) it’s about an all-too-human minister and his rambling clan. Crossroads is the name of a church youth group. This book made me really, really grateful for Silvi Pirn.