This lyrical fiction is about the relationship in 1974 between a Vietnam vet and the young nun who helps him stay in the world. Benny Finn and Sister Clare come together through their mutual search for something genuine — something real, at the heart of things, in spite of the world’s losses, chaos and brutality.
Sister Clare is a fictional figure, yet inspired by the wonderful Benedictine community of The Abbey of Regina Laudis.
Atelier26, an independent micro-press in Portland, Oregon, founded by M. Allen Cunningham in 2011, has produced a beautiful edition of this novel. The artist Nathan Shields has created the stunning cover design and interior graphic elements, including the upside-down boot and the fleur-de-lys.
“Filled with precise, loving observations of human nature, The Beauty of Ordinary Things is a slender, wise triumph of a novel, exquisitely distilled. Read this book; it will open your heart.”
—Michelle Richmond, author of The Year of Fog
“This beautiful short novel is populated by characters connected to each other by filaments of memory, regret and yearning. Each strand is lovely on its own, and the whole is captivating, radiant, mysterious, and deeply moving. I loved it.”
—Ann Packer, bestselling author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
“Book Q&A’s with Deborah Kalb” – interview by Deborah Kalb on her website, Haunting Legacy.
“Harriet Scott Chessman: The Beauty of Ordinary Things” – guest post on Meg Waite Clayton’s site, 1st Books: Reading and Writing with Friends, Meg Waite Clayton.
The Charles was glittering and blue, seagulls floating overhead, and down in the current a scull with two rowers moving straight and fast. I started humming that song, thinking the words. Albert Mooney says he loves her, all the boys are fighting for her.
I watched a young seagull hanging in one place, almost motionless. I stopped humming, but I could still hear the song. Let them all come as they will, for it’s Albert Mooney she loves still.
A drop of sweat slid behind my ear.
“No, Isabel. It’s OK.”
“I know. I’m sorry too.”
“I was just so grateful to you, for listening.”
“It’s OK. Forget about it.”
Some cars around me started to honk, as if honking was a way of getting somewhere. Isabel was looking out the window, at her side mirror.
She turned then, and I caught her eyes. She said, “I have to tell you something.”
In the seconds before she said it, I suddenly knew. It was like, I’d known. Wait! I wanted to shout. But I knew she couldn’t wait. I looked at the car in front of us, a little white Datsun with a dent in the tail. A girl was turning around to hand a bottle to a kid in the back seat. You could hear the kid crying.
Isabel’s hand was resting on my arm. I wondered how old the mother was, how the car had gotten dented.
“Benny, I think I’m pregnant.”