In winter 1491, a small English village endures privations and the consequences of a mysterious death. The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey (Dear Thief) is a poignant tale of superstition and guilt narrated by a quietly despairing parish priest.
John Reve, the priest, is, as his name implies, revered by all. "You're God's word to us and his wish," a parishioner says to him, but in this isolated and uneducated flock, faith is accompanied by superstition. When a wealthy and ambitious landowner drowns in the nearby river, the fearful residents feel sure it's a severe punishment from God. Even though it's not clear if the drowning is murder or suicide, the rural church dean expects Reve to name someone as murderer. Reve resists, thinking, "Death itself is the murderer, and birth its accomplice. Men die because they're born to die."
Reve's confessional, a simple box with a recently added screen that mocks a non-existent privacy, hears transgressions both large and small. Dispensing wisdom and pardons in equal measure, he's the one person who knows every sinful thought and action in the village. And, as it turns out, Reve is keeping secrets himself. But who will take his confession?
The Western Wind is a sublime and heartrending story, perfect for readers who enjoy impeccably chosen language and a penetrating look at the human condition. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.