Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

Sunday, January 14, 2007

If you’re hankering after yet another book by a Southern writer, this one by Clyde Edgerton is a good choice. 78-year-old Mattie, who claims that she’s “slowing down,” spends her days picking tomatoes, canning fruit, running the Lottie Moon missionary fund drive, and fixing the best cornbread, butterbeans, and pound cake for every upholster, dogcatcher, neighbor, and deacon who stops by. And she starts pondering what it really means to “do unto one of the least of these my brethren.” The developments arising from these thoughts are authentic and engaging. Mattie presents a placid, grandmotherly face to the world but the story gives the reader access to many sassy comments that she thinks but doesn’t say. Very witty.

Edgerton’s writing has something of Flannery O’Connor in it. Mattie’s Christian conviction and her Baptist church culture are very significant to her character and the plot. And people in the book are allowed to utter backward statements that reveal their ignorance and prejudices. As in many O’Connor stories, these flawed human beings are fully fleshed out and move about freely in the story, whether you like them or not. From this vantage point, you can both appreciate their place in the world and laugh at their foibles. (Also, check out the hymn at the end of the book whose title is the same as the book's, which Edgerton wrote and composed.)

It’s probably bad to do too much comparison with other writers, but Walking Across Egypt has that quality that I liked so much in Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford: the protagonist’s real faith in Jesus plays out naturally and sincerely. Mattie is neither preachy or smug in her devotion, but tries to follow Jesus as well as she can, expressing uncertainty at times and admitting error. She is a Christian who loves others and trusts God without falsely claiming to have all the answers – like a few people whom I most admire in my own life.

Title:Walking Across Egypt
Author:Clyde Edgerton
Date published:1987
Number of pages:215


Google Search