The Strange Children
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By Caroline Gordon
Old friends have convened at the Tennessee home of Sarah and Steve Lewis. Their gathering, witnessed and recorded solely by Lucy, Sarah and Steve’s nine-year-old daughter, involves the happenings, both usual and unusual, which can encompass everyday life: reminiscences of good and interesting times in the tropics of St. Tropez; dinner preparations and party games; livestock inspections and examinations of conscience; religious revivals and hints of infidelity. Yet beneath the stillness of the surface simmers a fundamental tension of life—the tension between authentic purpose and agnosticism, between a life divinely ordained in a particular direction and one of wandering across “a darkling plain.”
Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children,
whose mouth speaketh vanity… (Psalm 144)
The second of two novels Caroline Gordon wrote after her conversion to the Catholic faith, The Strange Children was deemed “a beautiful book” by Flannery O’Connor, thanks to the dramatic development of grace in its characters. A finalist (alongside The Catcher in the Rye and Faulkner’s Requiem for a Nun) for the 1952 National Book Award, The Strange Children is a sophisticated portrait of life, rendered with the peculiar talent of a child.
Caroline Gordon (1895–1981) was an American novelist and critic. Her writing earned her a Guggenheim Fellowship and O. Henry Award and a prominent place in the Southern Renaissance. A convert to the Catholic faith, she was friend and mentor to Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and others. Robert Penn Warren praised her for “enriching our literature uniquely.” Her works include The Malefactors, How to Read a Novel, and (with Allen Tate) The House of Fiction: An Anthology of the Short Story.
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