The Dry Wood
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By Caryll Houselander
“The story of innocent suffering,” in its author’s own words, The Dry Wood centers on the London community of Riverside, in mourning for the death of its parish priest, Fr. Malone. A child of the parish, Willie Jewell, is terribly ill, drawing nearer day by day to death’s door. The people of Riverside storm heaven for Fr. Malone to intercede with God and obtain a cure for this child who is beloved by one and all. As Willie and his family contend with illness and impending death, the drama of salvation unfolds: the suffering of one child as the means of redemption for the sinful and sorrowful in his midst.
For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:31 as the epigraph to The Dry Wood)
Poignant, poetic, and replete with fascinating characters, The Dry Wood bears, in the words of one critic, “a feeling for a truth which most novels never seek to reveal: a feeling for Eternal Truth wrapped in the clouts of Riverside.” In that quality lies the greatness of Houselander and her one and only novel.
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Caryll Houselander (1901–1954) was an English Roman Catholic artist, author, poet, and mystic. A convert at age six, Houselander left the Church as a teenager, returning as a young adult and becoming a fixture in twentieth-century Catholicism. In addition to her artistic and literary endeavors, she dedicated her relatively brief life to caring for the material and spiritual needs of the poor and desolate. Her works include A Rocking-Horse Catholic, The Way of the Cross, and Guilt.