Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, published in 1974, is a nonfiction work that defies categorization. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction, it is often read as an example of American nature writing or as a meditation. Annie Dillard the author, resists these labels, preferring to think of the book as a theological treatise. The book is frequently described as a collection of essays, but Dillard insists that the work is an integrated whole. Perhaps it is because the book succeeds on so many levels that it has been so widely read and admired.
The book is a series of internal monologues and reflections spoken by an unnamed narrator. Over the course of a year, she walks alone through the land surrounding Tinker Creek, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Roanoke, Virginia. As she observes the changing of the seasons and the corresponding behaviors of the plants and animals around her, she reflects on the nature of the world and of the God who set it in motion. The narrator is determined to present the natural world as it truly is, not sentimentally or selectively. Therefore, she is as likely to reflect on a frog being sucked dry by an insect as on the slant of light that strikes a certain springtime tree. Whether the images are cruel or lovely, the language is beautiful and poetic, and insistently celebratory.