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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Audio Book Review: Greenwillow by B.J. Chute

This is a beautifully written, charming story. I have to agree with the comment: "Everyone needs to visit Greenwillow..."
Audio Book: Greenwillow
by B.J. Chute
Narrator: Ann M. Richardson
Audio Book Length: 6 hrs 44 mins
# of Audio CD's: 6
Audio CD ISBN: 978-1-927817-34-6
Genre: Classic Fiction
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0

"Everyone needs to visit Greenwillow and meet its wonderful inhabitants - from the two reverends with their 'two ways of walking before the Lord' to the irrepressible Micah who braves the devil."
A lyrical and timeless fable of the small country village Greenwlllow and its unforgettable inhabitants, and the poignant romance between young Gideon Briggs, who lives in the shadow of a family curse and is determined never to marry, and Dorrie, the orphan girl he loves. Perhaps B.J. Chute's best-known novel, a critic described Greenwillow as "a deeply moving, gently humorous and serenely wise story of young love and self-discovery." Greenwillow was brought to the Broadway stage in 1960, starring Anthony Perkins, with book by Lesser Samuels and Frank Loesser, and music and lyrics by Frank Loesser.
A bit of trivia. Anthony Perkins was simultaneously filming Alfred Hitchcock's classic shocker Psycho while rehearsing Greenwillow. Over the years, Perkins, in interviews, always said that his stand-in was used in the filming of the infamous shower scene, because he was rehearsing a Broadway show. Greenwillow was that show.

The village of Greenwillow is a sweet, pastoral place where everyone knows each other. The villagers have forgotten the name of the river that flows by, so they call it The Meander. The sweet, steepled church houses the lean, stern Reverend Lapp who lives in the village with his equally stern and snobby mother. It is a bit of a surprise when another preacher, the robust, cheerful Reverend Birdsong, appears to share the pulpit. Now the two men of God have to cope with each other, Lapp preaching against hell and demons, and Birdsong soothing and comforting the flock with a gentler message.

Out beyond the fork of the river a small cabin contains the household of Amos Briggs. Amos himself is a wandering man who was gone when his first wife died giving birth to his eldest son, Gideon. Amos has visited his second wife, Martha, often enough to leave five more children in her care, along with Granmma Briggs who is not afraid to voice her opinion on things in the house and village.

Gideon has grown strong and responsible, taking care of the farm and heading the house in the absence of his father. All his life Gideon has been led to expect to receive the cursed wandering call that falls on all the first born Brigg’s sons. Gideon is diligently preparing everything to be in good shape to turn over to his half brother, Micah.

Dorrie, a young orphan girl, lives in the village taking care of two elderly spinsters. She is known for her sweet, kind spirit as well as her delicious baking. Dorrie has a fondness for Gideon but he refuses to encourage her affections as he knows he will be leaving in the next year when his call comes. Gideon has vowed to never marry so that he won’t leave a woman behind to birth his children alone.

Micah is a bold, outspoken and brave child. Since Reverend Lapp preaches that Gideon will be called off by the devil if he doesn’t resist, Micah decides to face the devil himself to try to make him leave Gideon alone so he will stay in the village with his family.

This story is absolutely delightful with its stage-full of unique and precocious characters, from the youngest child, Jabez, to old Granmma. There is a wonderful contrast between the two preachers, both offering different strengths and carrying different weaknesses. The lovely prose and mystical story made me think of the ethereal Brigadoon. I had never heard of this story but I am so glad I was offered the chance to listen and review it. I highly recommend this gem to those who are ready for a lyrical tale to take them away from the stress of the world for an idyllic, gentle adventure.

Audio Notes: I think it would be difficult to find a more perfect reading than this one by Ann M. Richardson. Her soft lyrical narration, and the portrayal of the different characters, made Greenwillow come alive in my mind. I am sure the written text is lovely but the audio is a true delight.

I received this download from Post Hypnotic Press Books for an honest review.

Please follow this link to enjoy an audio sample.
(Also available at Audible.)

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