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A Kinder, Gentler Thoreau

ples become more agitated the window darkens and the world is hidden. As I did not know then but I know now, the surface of the river is like a living soul, which is easy to disturb, is often disturbed, but, growing calm, shows what it was, is, and will be.

Ultimately, Jayber finds the only answers that matter. He finds peace. His knowledge, as it came, seemed to come at great cost, but ultimately he sees that it has come at no cost at all; that the loss and grief and disappointment and even hatred he has suffered have all been a gift, and in some way done him good. He has relinquished the world only to find that all the world is his. He has come exactly to the place he needed to be: the perfect place, which he didn’t recognize until the moment he arrived.

My life lengthens. History grows shorter . . . I whisper over to myself the way of loss, the names of the dead. One by one, we lose our loved ones, our friends, our powers of work and pleasure, our landmarks, the days of our allotted time. One by one, the way we lose them, they return to us and are treasured up in our hearts. Grief affirms them, preserves them, sets the cost. Finally a man stands up alone, scoured and charred like a burnt tree, having lost everything, and is ready to go. Now I am ready.

This is a beautiful book – an affirmation of life, of the possibility of redemption, of gratitude for having lived. Jayber has seen life to the bottom, and despite the evil of the world that is uncomfortably clear to him, he has found the world good. He is a man to make you laugh and cry and think. Late in his life, he says, ‘Often I fear that I am not paying enough attention.’ But he has paid close attention indeed for more than seven decades. It is a journey worth sharing.

An analogue man deeply suspicious of the digital age, richard plattwas born at least a hundred years too late. He enjoys a life of leisurely pleasures and quiet anachronisms, and his library is cross-referenced on index cards.

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