An Apology for Autumn
Jim Gudsen’s older brother Herkimer was always destined for something greater than an ordinary life. Devout from an early age, Herkimer knew his future involved pain, and he continuously suffered from strange accidents. As a child, Jim, the narrator of the story, was jealous of the attention bestowed on Herkimer for both his perceived destiny and his injuries. But combat time in the Vietnam War eliminated Jim’s jealousy while also destroying his faith. When Jim returns to the Saginaw, Michigan, area in the late 1960s, he eventually finds Herkimer’s belief in God infectious. Jim becomes an increasingly less skeptical participant as Herkimer leads his unorthodox congregation through trials and miracles as he attempts to save his wife Meg from cancer.
Herkimer’s flock is populated by what the judgmental would label as the sinners of society. Individuals engaged in adultery, pornography, prostitution, exotic dancing, and even murder are accepted as they begin to believe in miracles and that there are no coincidences. As cigarettes are lit and extinguished, understanding and tolerance beyond that allowed by the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod become second nature and former strangers become family.
Turrill’s fluid writing style creates an atmosphere perfect for his characters’ debates over troubling topics such as homosexuality, premarital sex, literal interpretations of the Bible, and whether or not Christianity is the only path to salvation. Although the constant human struggle to both understand life and be happy is prevalent in the novel, the absurdity of some of the situations keeps the book from becoming morose.
No apology is needed for this incredible novel. Style, content, and characters blend to create an engaging novel that entertains while asking us to consider that there may be more than one path to knowing God and being saved.