Ron Hansen. Exiles ($25.00 signed)
"Ron Hansen's new novel is a subtle, exquisitely crafted look at the life of visionary poet and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. The book centers around the 1875 shipwreck of the German liner /The Deutchland/, in which scores of passengers, including five young nuns escaping religious persecution in Germany, were killed. Hopkins was so moved by the event that it inspired him to break a self-imposed silence and return to his true calling, poetry. Hopkins has always fascinated me, and Hansen does an amazing job of recreating his world. The young priest was conflicted throughout his short life - his desire for a quiet life of religious devotion was, he often felt, at odds with his need to express his artistic genius. Indeed, he had earlier abandoned a promising literary career at Oxford to become a Jesuit monk. Hopkins sought to create a new kind of rhyme more closely approximating the patterns of natural speech, and his mind naturally created the kind of lush metaphysical imagery that would inspire poets for generations to come. Hansen combines the recreation of a tragedy at sea from the point of view of the five young nuns with a chronicle of Hopkins's own short life of exile.