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Robinson, Marilynne | Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2004


pp. 5-6

John Ames, a 76-year-old minister, dying from heart failure, writes to his son about how he has experienced life.  He tells of approaching a couple of men who work in the local auto garage.  They’re having a smoke.  And they’re laughing.  “When they saw me coming, of course the joking stopped, but I could see they were still laughing to themselves, thinking what the old preacher almost heard them say. . . That’s the strangest thing about this life, about being in the ministry.  People change the subject when they see you coming.  And then sometimes those very same people come into your study and tell you the most remarkable things.  There’s a lot under the surface of life, everyone knows that.  A lot of malice and dread and guilt, and so much loneliness, where you wouldn’t really expect to find it, either.”