Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pastor Pete and the Cat by Jane Robertson

I highly recommend this book.

Purr strings.

That summarizes the central tension of this wonderful, funny, and entertaining work. That strain constitutes much of the novel's draw, although that's way too simplistic.

Robertson displays all of the characteristics of great artistry. Those include a mastery of language, of story-telling with central and peripheral tensions, of faultless settings, and of vibrant characters. In this novel, which is about an insecure but sincere and loving Pastor Pete, who hates approaching strangers, and a very confident and valuable calico cat, Raggy, several subplots add both mystery and texture. Several different and delightful characters, both parishioners and prospects of real flesh and blood, interact with their own unique quirks and dialects, singing their own unique songs.

To mention a few there's the Johnstons, thinking that they need marital counseling because of Mamma Ida Mae and the parish secretary, Midge, irritating as a bug on your skin but lovingly. There's Marietta, the Pastor's wife, with her soulful eyes, Mrs. Mayhew, who sits on the front row of the chapel, and Stella Hauger, the TV broadcaster. Plus there's my favorite grump, Gaston Eugene Gabbert. Here's a part of Pastor Pete and Gaston's first few minutes meeting each other:

" . . . We'd love to have you come check out our church."
"Don't see the need. I don't imagine churches have gotten any better over the years."
"Does that mean you used to go to church, sir?"
"Well, everybody's mama and papa makes them go to church, now don't they?"
"I wish, sir." Pete scrabbled some dead leaves from underneath a cluster of bushes while he thought. He could feel sweat oozing down the small of his back. "There are some really nice people at our church, sir. And after the service we always have a coffee hour with goodies."
"What do you mean by goodies?"
"Oh, muffins and doughnuts. Fruit trays. A lot of different things."
"Ever have prune cake?"
"I'm not sure, sir. I usually get to the table after everything's gone." Would a bribe be inappropriate? Could he afford to care? "But I'm sure if you want prune cake, we could find somebody to make you one."

You want to laugh and to feel refreshed and happy, yet realize that life is complicated? Read this novel. I recommend it with all my vigor.