If you are in love with language, here is how you will read Brian Doyle’s posthumous collection of essays: by underlining sentences and double-underlining other sentences; by sometimes shading in the space between the two sets of lines so as to create a kind of D.I.Y. bolded font; by marking whole astonishing paragraphs with a squiggly line in the margin, and by highlighting many of those squiggle-marked sections with a star to identify the best of the astonishing lines therein ... This book is what Van Zandt’s greatest hits would look like had he lived to be 60, and if every song on the record hit the bar set by Pancho and Lefty ... God’s acolyte is Doyle himself, missing not a single gorgeous blessing in a life so full of love it spilled over into essay after essay after essay ... Doyle was also both hilarious and fierce, and I took as much pleasure from watching him address a denizen of the gun-rights coalition as 'dear outraged shrieking lunatic,' as I took from lingering over the loveliest descriptions of the natural world I have ever read ... arguably a two-page master class in environmental writing. It also offers a fit description of the experience of reading this remarkable book: 'a feeling eerily like a warm hand brushed against your cheek, and you sit there, near tears, smiling, and then you stand up. Changed.'
... dazzling ... a renewed opportunity for more readers to discover the insight and humanity of [Doyle's] work ... bursts with vivid descriptions ... Doyle's brand of theology will appeal to fans of the work of writers like Anne Lamott ... Spirituality aside, readers fortunate enough to discover the many pleasures of Brian Doyle's work here will be grateful, too, for that encounter.
Creating a book from a stack of essays requires the mosaic artistry of a stained glass window. The editors select a piece that is full of light and rich in color, maybe a small story about a post office clerk. They shape it, smooth its edges, and choose its place next to another luminous story, maybe about free beer. And so it goes, one brilliant cobalt or ruby pane after another; maybe this next is a story about the smell of low tide. Finally, all the small pieces—each a beautiful, true thing in itself—together create a larger picture that is true in an entirely new and astonishing way. What truth is revealed when the light shines through the collected essays of Brian Doyle? Maybe this: You might think that your days are unremarkable. You would be wrong. Each day is full of wild and wonderful gifts ... Combined in One Long River of Song, Brian’s glowing essays create a vision of what a good person might be, what a good life surely is, a larger story of the transformative power of joyful gratitude.
The late Doyle called the contents of this generous, posthumous collection essays although they have the rhythm of poems and the lyricism of songs ... Doyle was a wonderful stylist, obviously in love with series and adjectives ... Although love, he says, 'is our greatest and hardest work,' he is generous, almost profligate in filling his work with it, especially when it is targeted at his children, who are small miracles because he and his wife were told that they couldn’t have children but proved the doctor wrong. The book concludes with a piece called 'A Last Prayer'—appropriately one of gratitude, for readers will be equally grateful for this lovely book and its beautiful contents.
... we see Doyle at his most mundane and profound ... Doyle imparts a sense of breathless curiosity and joy in this blend of spirituality and philosophy; probing readers will find surprises and solace.
... stunning mystical prose ... While the book may prove to be of financial value to his survivors, the richest beneficiaries will undoubtedly be those who read it ... Doyle employs the ordinary to catch the reflection of a world that is 'still stuffed with astonishments beyond our wildest imagining, which is humbling, and lovely, and maybe the only way we are going to survive ourselves and let everything else alive survive us too' ... Doyle’s mysticism is similar to spiritual writers like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, but his prose is informal, instantly relatable, and quite often delightfully unorthodox ... Though each topic spans at most a few pages, Doyle’s prose is so expansive and dripping with visceral detail that even the briefest vignettes are often a wondrous adventure ... This brilliant compendium of spiritual musings will resonate with people of any faith—or of none.
Doyle’s curiosity is insatiable and his self-described Celtic-mystic disposition spots the transcendent regularly. As much haunted by the language of James Joyce as the lessons of Jesus, Doyle sees and celebrates what happens every day in each essay of this eclectic collection. This 'best-of' should enlarge his circle of admirers.