“Vestments” by John Reimringer

I lead a book group in the Twin Cities of Minnesota that reads mostly fiction with themes of myth, religion and spirituality. So Vestments, by John Reimringer, was kind of a no-brainer as a selection. It’s about a young Catholic priest in St. Paul, Minnesota struggling with his calling.

Saturday morning in Saint Paul, church bells ringing the hour. I was in the dining room of my mother’s house, celebrating Mass, when we heard my father arrives–the rattle of a rusted exhaust, the backfire of a badly tuned engine. He’d come to drop off his alimony.

James Dressler tells those who ask why he’s taking a break from the Church that he had “trouble with a woman,” and as the novel plays out, we find out what that trouble was. It’s more interesting and complicated that I would have guessed, and Reimringer’s novel overall is the same way. James’ ties to friends, the priesthood, and his blue-collar family are palpable and believably ambivalent, in the true meaning of that word: pulled in multiple directions. James prepares to celebrate his brother’s marriage, even while his parents’ has fallen apart and his beloved grandfather, Otto, is dying.

Vestments tackles the biggest topics–living, dying, loving, belief, family, vocation–but in ways that felt grounded and true as they played out in this particular family. I live not very far from where it’s set, but Reimringer’s depiction of blue-collar Saint Paul was like reading about a foreign country. I found Vestments rich, deep, and satisfying in ways I would not have expected. I look forward to talking about it in a group.

Largehearted Boy has Reimringer’s playlist to accompany the book here.

Reimringer and another author, in a head-tilting pairing, will be reading at Common Good Books (Garrison Keillor’s store) in Saint Paul on September 17, 2012.

2 Responses to ““Vestments” by John Reimringer”

  1. Camille Says:

    I am in a Faith in Literature book group that sounds very similar to yours. Would be interested in your reading list. We are set through Dec. 2012 but will be on the hunt afterwards.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Oh, yes, Camille, twist my arm to talk to one of my favorite book bloggers about books! Hee. We are also set through december: August: pick one Vestments, Tinkers or Peace Like a River, experiment to see if we can talk about three books at once, September Beloved, October: Nothing to be Frightened Of by Julian Barnes and November 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein, December off.