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The Book of the Dun Cow, Walt Wangerin

Walt Wangerin is a name I’ve seen in print many times. My dad had Ragman and Other Cries of Faith lying about at home for years and I remember thumbing through it at Christmas or Thanksgiving, reading bits here and there, and being intrigued by the style of writing; the words on the page had a canter to them, and a sparseness that gave them strength.

When my buddy Jason Gray let me borrow his first edition copy of The Book of the Dun Cow I was appreciative. Jason has recommended and/or given several books to me (The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, The Father Brown Omnibus, Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War to name a few), and he hasn’t steered me wrong yet. When he told me that he and his family had read The Book of the Dun Cow aloud at Easter I was even more interested. I’d been working on songs with an Easter theme for a while, so I was curious to see how a novel about a boisterous rooster and his coop would tie in.

Chauntecleer, the main character, is unforgettable and utterly unique. I’ve read a lot of books over the years and I’ve never come across a character quite like Chauntecleer: admirable, courageous, self-sacrificing, irritable, cranky, and loud. (He reminded me of certain members of my family, to be honest.)

I’m sitting on the tour bus right now and it’s a little too distracting to dissect the book’s finer points. But I’ll tell you that the story is epic; the writing precise, colorful, masterful even; and while it’s no allegory for Christ’s death and resurrection (which I think is a good thing), it is a story of light overcoming a great darkness.

I just might read it again next year, around Easter.


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