Bishop’s Mantle clothes timeless issues

Agnes Sligh Turnbull’s The Bishop’s Mantle is a religious novel that avoids preaching and focuses on personal faith.

Hilary Laurens is called as rector of the fashionable St. Matthews Episcopal Church in the late ’30s just as his beloved grandfather, the old bishop dies, leaving Hillary with no family except his beloved unbelieving brother, Dick.

Though they both know she is an unlikely candidate for a rector’s wife, Hilary woos and wins socialite Lexa McColly.

Before long, Hillary is over his ears in church activities and at odds with wealthy church leaders over his outreach to the city’s poor and to its young intellectuals. He’s also struggling with his own popularity, especially his attractiveness to unattached women.

Meanwhile Lex, chaffing at being deserted for parish affairs, begins going out nights, socializing with her old crowd.

Can this marriage survive?

Of course, I knew it would, but that didn’t keep me from being interested in how they did it. And Turnbull gets high marks for the totally believable incident of the dropped handbag that precipitates the marital crisis.

The book’s detail is dated—rented pews, dress-for-dinner, faithful family retainers in the rectory—but its questions of how to live one’s faith are timeless.

The Bishop’s Mantle
By Agnes Sligh Turnbull
MacMillan. 1948
359 pages
Bestseller # 4 for 1948
My grade: C-
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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