The Passion of Reverend Nash

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As she rides her bicycle around the small town of Hutchinson, Connecticut, Reverend Jordanna Nash is a familiar and seemingly beloved figure. She feels needed by her parishioners, and her sister Abby’s presence and warm family circle provide an antidote to loneliness. Yet there are hazards, in her own emotions and in the very congregation she serves.

She still inwardly mourns the loss of her two full-term pregnancies. Her husband David is doing anthropological research in faraway New Zealand. Even before he left, their marriage bond was fraying—always problematical for a member of the clergy, even when, like David, the spouse does not belong to the same faith.

Reverend Nash’s call to the ministry has been unorthodox, perhaps unique. In bad moments she blames it on selfish motives. Her height and assertive personality tend to take up most of the oxygen wherever she is. As a pastor, Jordanna felt, she’d have to pay attention to other people’s needs.

These needs prove almost intractable. June Nearing, a young mother of four, is clinically depressed, but she refuses to see a psychiatrist as Jordanna recommends. June speaks of her problems in religious terms, then disappears. Tara Sears, a pregnant teenager, believes that her parents and Jordanna are blocking her from having an abortion. As these situations play out, Jordanna’s doubts grow. So do the doubts of certain church members who never trusted her.

Despite its church background, The Passion of Reverend Nash’s focus is more on character growth than on religious insights. At the end, Jordanna comes to an uneasy peace with herself. Readers who have shared her tortured journey to awareness will wish her well.