Taking its title from a medieval French carol, Wheat That Springeth Green, like Morte d’Urban, develops the great Christian theme of the resurrection from the dead. The novel tells the story of Joe Hackett, a midwestern Catholic diocesan priest. At age forty-four, he is pastor of a comfortable suburban church in Inglenook, Minnesota. Despite his successful building campaign, he is an unhappy man who begins drinking; he is headed for despair until his curate, Father Bill, arrives. A priest of the 1960’s, immature and idealistic, Father Bill unwittingly elicits Joe’s paternal and pastoral instincts. In his struggle to shape Father Bill into a solid, responsible priest, Joe regains his sense of vocation, abandons his suburban parish, and dedicates his life to working with the poor in a slum parish.
Although writing from a third-person point of view, Powers frequently interjects dialogue and comment within parentheses to reflect Joe’s inner thoughts or to pick up talk that he hears going on around him. For example, when Joe is discussing his building plans with the archbishop, Powers projects within parentheses Joe’s imagined interpretation of his remarks:So Joe, then living in a room in the school and quite prepared to go on living under such conditions if advised to build a new church but dearly wishing, as he’d told the Arch and his reverend consultors, to keep the best wine till last (“Wine, Archbishop? Did he say wine?”—“Means a new church, you dummy”), had got his rectory.
After briefly tracing some of Joe’s...
(The entire section is 655 words.)