The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month


Winter: A Spiritual Biography of the Season, edited by Gary Schmidt and Susan M. Felch with illustrations by Barry Moser, is just the right book to curl up with in front of the fireplace during February. The editors, who teach literature at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., gathered 30 essays, stories and poems on the spiritual dimensions of winter. As Patricia Hampl writes in an excerpt from her book A Romantic Education: "The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn. It was snowing and it was silent." She writes so well about winter because she lives in St. Paul, Minn.

Check out Kathleen Norris on this season as an occasion to contemplate endings and loss, John Updike on the cold, and E.B. White on winter as a catalyst to playfulness. Other writers in this anthology include Annie Dillard, Ron Hansen, Will Campbell, Jane Kenyon and Jamaica Kincaid (Skylight Paths, 800-962-4544).


The Guys
is based on a play by Anne Nelson about the aftereffects of Sept. 11 on a journalist and a fire department captain who asks her to help him write the eulogies for some of his co-workers who were still missing in the World Trade Center debris. Joan (Sigourney Weaver) is at a loss on how to handle her many feelings about the tragic events of Sept. 11. Then she meets Nick (Anthony LaPaglia). Still mourning his friends and feeling guilty for surviving, he feels unequal to the challenge of paying tribute to them. So these two individuals from separate worlds sit down together to work on a sacred task. Nick describes each of the four men, and Joan asks questions, drawing out anecdotes about them.

Directed by Jim Simpson, the film comes across with maximum emotional impact. It shows how Joan's skill with language and images is put to good use helping the firemen's families grieve them properly. The Guys also gives us a fresh appreciation of the mystery of human beings. As Joan states: "We have no idea what wonders lie hidden within the people around us" (Focus Features, not rated).

Evelyn is a touching film set in Ireland in 1953 and based on a true story. Desmond Doyle (Pierce Brosnan) is an unemployed painter and a heavy drinker. When his wife leaves him for another man, the courts decide that he can't care for his children. The two boys and the girl are sent to different orphanages. Evelyn (Sophie Vavasseur) seems to have her father's spunk and a deep streak of independence. Meanwhile, Desmond decides to fight to get his children back, a case that goes all the way to the Irish Supreme Court. To strengthen his chances of winning, he quits drinking and gets a job. Here is a fine film that celebrates a father's strong nurturing instincts (MGM/ United Artists, PG).


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