The Bishop's Mantle Author:Agnes Sligh Turnbull Hilary Laurens, young Episcopal priest, about 1939, has recently returned to his hometown, somewhere in the American heartland (it isn't known quite where), upon receiving sudden word that his grandfather, the Bishop of that diocese, and the only father he's known, has suddenly taken ill and is dying, and after pressuring the taxi driver to make... more » haste, Hilary arrives just in time to talk briefly with "Grandy" just before the Bishop's death. But Hilary is able to give the Bishop some good news on his deathbed: Hilary has just been "called" (appointed vicar of) St. Matthews, a large church in a "great eastern city", and thus can perpetuate the Bishop's calling.
In course of the book, Hilary, at a time when the United States was, for the time being, neutral in the World War II raging in Europe, needs first to cope with the multiple challenges of becoming a vicar of a major church himself just at the moment his grandfather dies (the Bishop's Mantle has fallen to him), dealing with the twin callings of a priest to keep his church financially viable, up to date, and yet in keeping of his duty to serve the poor, falling in love with the daughter of a wealthy church patron, and yet provide pastoral service to women in his flock, not all of whom want a priest so much as male company, and then finally deal with the odious consequences of the events of December 1941. The book was clearly written during the war but not published until shortly afterwards.
The book offers a sublime combination of religious piety combined with realism of the church's place in modern society rarely found in American literature, and which perhaps only the recent books by Jan Karon about an Episcopal priest's life in modern-day North Carolina can match.
At the same time, one or two things about the book show just how much the world has changed in the relatively short time since the book was written; for instance parishioners at that time needed to rent pews, and that was a major source of income for the church, and a bit of intrigue over that in the book is very puzzling until that point is grasped. (Wikipedia)« less