Thursday, October 08, 2015
Review: Lilies of the Field
Grand Central Publishing, July 1988
About the Book
One of the most beloved of modern classics. The enchanting story of two unlikely friends, a black ex-GI and the head of a group of German nuns, The Lilies of the Field tells the story of their impossible dream—to build a chapel in the desert.
There is a young legend developing on the west side of the mountains. It will, inevitably, grow with the years. Like all legends, it is composed of falsehood and fact. In this case, the truth is more compelling than the trappings of imagination with which it has been invested. The man who has become a legendary figure was, perhaps, of greater stature in simple reality than he ever will be in the oft-repeated, and expanded, tales which commemorate his deeds. Here before the whole matter gets out of hand, is how it was . . .
His name was Homer Smith. He was twenty-four. He stood six foot two and his skin was a deep, warm black.
If you love the movie—or if you only like it—you should treat yourself and read the book. How does it compare with the movie? Is it as wonderful, magical, perfect? I’m not exactly sure it’s fair to compare the two. I can easily say it’s well worth reading. I loved meeting Homer Smith. I loved meeting all the nuns. I loved seeing Homer at work. I loved his interactions with the sisters, especially seeing him teach them English. There are so many delightful and wonderful things about the book and the movie. The book isn’t better than the movie, in my opinion, but it is at least as good as the movie, which is saying something. My expectations for this one were very high!
So in case you’re unfamiliar with the movie starring Sidney Poitier, here’s the basic plot: Homer Smith is a man who likes his independence. He’s a handy man of sorts traveling the country in his station wagon. He stops when and where he likes and he finds work. He does a few odd jobs for some German nuns.
One of them feels that Homer is God’s answer to her prayers. She feels that Homer has come specifically to build them a church. Though they don’t have enough money or enough resources, they have faith that it will happen and that Homer is the man for the job. Can one man build a chapel?
Homer Smith is a delightful character. And the book is a great read.