It’s funny how you remember where you were when you read a manuscript. I remember reading Gary Haugen’s Good News about Injustice, at my teak dining table in Leicester, a pile of US manuscripts on my left, ready to be dispensed with, dismissed, quickly and efficiently – then suddenly, realising what I was reading, slowing mid-sentence, focussing, shaking my head, drawing breath in disbelief, ‘no, it can’t be, what…?’ Or Ruth Valerio’s ‘L is for Lifestyle, looking out from my cluttered desk across the car park, determining to cycle in to work from then on. Or Pete Greig’s God on Mute, up in my bright study a few years later, the silence of Easter Saturday, of unanswered prayer, circling around my mind.
Last Lent, laid up at home with a badly broken foot, when to make a cup of tea meant strapping and hobbling, propping myself at the kitchen counter, work had to go on. I could still read. There were manuscripts to be read. And there was this manuscript. I remember the leafless grey trees beyond my window, the quiet of my little street, the children’s voices from the nursery at playtime, and the sound of a page brushing another.
As this gentle book unfolded, as each new leaf fluttered to the floor, like the fragile just-mending wing of a bird, my spirit lifted. Lifted on the breeze and sigh of Jill’s lovely writing. Soared. Barely finding a phrase to mark, a comment to scribble – it was just beautiful to read. And so, laying down the pencil of summary and report, shrugging the yoke of schedule and deadline, I let myself just read, let her words coax my soul into rest and retreat.
If you are looking for something a little different for Lent – and there are many lovely books around – then may I suggest Even the Sparrow by Jill Weber. It’s hard to say exactly why, it’s just beautiful to read.