The Power and the Glory had the musical feel of staccato – rapid spurts of notes with a little air between. Greene kept the narrative moving at a rapid pace with these word bursts that explained multitudes. I was left wondering how he did it.
This book follows a flawed outlaw who happens to be a priest. This priest, called The Whiskey Priest, has a penchant for strong drink and also has a daughter (highly frowned upon in priestly circles). He lives in an area of Mexico in the 1930s that is trying to rid the world of the impact of Christianity, Catholicism, God, etc. The law, represented in the character of the Lieutenant, is hell-bent on killing this final remaining priest. The Whiskey Priest continues to take confessions and administer communion while running from the law.
This book is so powerful because it presents the priest in a number of situations in which the opposite of what should happen occurs. For example, since he is the only priest, there is no one to hear his confession. He hears other’s confession, but is never able to confess to another priest. In some sense, he doesn’t want to, but he needs to for his soul. He finally ends up confessing, but not in the way I expected. He confesses to a group of criminals in a prison cell, with a bucket of crap nearby and a couple making love in the corner. There are a number of examples of these types of opposite situations where you’re able to view something in a new way by looking at it in an almost grotesque or unaccustomed way.
The Power and the Glory had a similar feel to Blood Meridian and Twilight (William Gay). It was rich and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since finishing it. It’s a book that grips you and keeps you thinking.