Echoes of the Big Song

What does Sandra Cisneros have to say about faith? How might Andre Dubus speak of it? And Raymond Carver? Where does he stand?

To find out, read Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith. In this sweeping, complicated anthology, the conflicts, desires, and obstacles to faith are effectively explored. While reading you pause to look around your reading room, as if someone has taken out all the air, and you’re left staring straight into the wide-open face of the sky.

Twenty-five stories are collected in A Celestial Omnibus—culled from Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, and Protestant writers. They are not treacly or preachy; rather, they sing with laughter and desire. Together, these stories, grouped under themes of "Mystery," "Doubt," "Evil," "The Supernatural," and "Reconciliation," make up a chorus of voices: They sing a big song.

In "Little Miracles, Kept Promises," by Sandra Cisneros, notes pinned to saints’ statues sing with the pleas of the needy: San Antonio de Padua is asked, "Can you help me find a man who isn’t a pain in the nalgas? There aren’t any in Texas, I swear." In "A Father’s Story," Andre Dubus portrays a father who betrays his God to save the daughter he loves.

Flannery O’Connor’s "Good Country People" gives us a traveling Bible salesman who seduces a ghastly young woman with a wooden leg. But does he repent? Or marry her? No. He merrily tucks the prized wooden leg into his Bible suitcase—which contains no Bibles at all—and scoots into the burnt Southern hills. He leaves O’Connor’s beastly young woman stranded, clutching only her sanctimonious faith while the man disappears before her very eyes.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1998
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