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Hints of His Mortality

The stories in Hints of His Mortality concern the male of the species--bewildered, guilt-ridden characters, adrift in a changing sea of roles and expectations.  Although yearning for the ideal, the perfect form, and that sense of divine connection suggested by  Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode, they usually end up settling for what seems the next best things: sex and religion.

The amorous scrimmage of male and female is a contest that leaves no one unmarked.  There is Grimshaw of "The Blue Cloak" whose reticent wife becomes most passionate upon the arrival of overnight guests.  Cunningham of “Reflected Music” whose forays into sexuality result in more ambiguity than certainty.  Frank, the isolated janitor of “Strays,” whose desire for Connie, the girlfriend of his newly deceased roommate, is fulfilled with less than satisfying results.

There are the hapless ministers throughout this collection as well, whose daily grind of professional piety leaves them, in many cases with more questions than answers:  the young Reverend Anderson whose fall from the church roof leads him to tell his congregants what he really thinks; the Episcopalian priest of “Epilogue” who wonders why he wasn’t blessed with as much moral rectitude as his brother who sells life insurance.  And there are also those like Father Oldham of “The Children’s Crusade” whose faith is marked by madness as well as the sincerity of true conviction.

The men and boys of Hints of His Mortality are never unaware of their flaws, for these are characters with the capacity to register the shadows of their every blemish.  Like Ferguson of the title story, whose failures of conscience haunt him for twenty years, each protagonist experiences the fallibility of his own nature, agonizes over his own moral weakness, and longs for escape from this life in which “our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting.”

Amazon.com: Hints of His Mortality (Iowa Short Fiction Award)

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