Epiphany & The Well of the Star: A Review

Elizabeth Goudge vs Tolkien vs. Lewis vs. L’Engle vs. Jan Karon: whose fiction would I want if I could only have one of these cherished authors’ works–or even only one work of theirs? With no disrepect to the others, it’s a no brainer: Elizabeth Goudge, especially The Scent of Water. But I digresss…

Today is the traditional day for the feast of the Epiphany and this novella published in 1941 is a delightful read for any age; in fact, it only improves with the reader’s age, in my estimate. In Miss Goudge’s story the Magi arrive simultaneously with the shepherds instead of when Baby Jesus was actually a toddler, when Herod’s infamous slaughter of the innocents (all boys two and under) was carried out and the Holy Family makes their flight into Egypt.

Her writing, as always, clearly conjures up the physical and emotional geography; the vivid imagery of both the external and internal worlds of her characters abounds. The feast of Epiphany is the penultimate one during Christmastide before the Baptism of the Lord and the beginning of our new liturgical year’s Ordinary Time the Monday after that. This story, in its simplicity and earnestness, encapsulates both the Ordinary Time of the church year–the normal day in, day out life of a shepherd boy–as well as its times of celebration (wise men bringing three significant gifts to celebrate the birth of the most important person in the world). Learning to accept that our life “is what it is” at any given moment but that we are not without hope–as the appearance of an extraordinary guardian angel reveals–reminds us that times of suffering will not usually go on forever without respite, that even the most grim of outcomes may be reversed through unlikely means, and that even a simple shepherd boy may get to count himself friends of a wise man (although not his surly camel!).

This book is an expensive out of print title and is a relatively hard book to find in a library but well worth checking for (or obtaining via ILL) and/or keeping an eye out at used book stores for a copy, for those who find themselves smitten by it as I did several years ago. My copy comes from a nearby regional library’s book sale table. I was horrified by how little it had been checked out after the mid-50s, even though it is a small town library. What a waste!

Again, although most Christians in the U.S. who celebrate Epiphany did so on Sunday, here’s to a blessed remembrance of that feast. If you have a favorite short story, read aloud, novella, or even novel involving Epiphany, I’d love to hear about it.






2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Beckie Peterson
    Jan 07, 2015 @ 02:32:05

    some of the best books I have found on the discard table at the library.



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