In what feels like a valedictory collection, Dillard has selected, rearranged and in some cases retitled and revised 22 of the best essays she’s written over the last 40 years, curating what amounts to a retrospective exhibit of her own career ... The Abundance is crepuscular. Darkness keeps falling across the page. Readers seeking pretty glimpses of heaven on earth will find little comfort here. Humor, yes. And a fair portion of the beautiful and the sublime. A great deal of the sublime. But little comfort.
Included here are eight short, less demanding pieces taken from her 1987 memoir An American Childhood, offering pointers to Dillard’s evolution as a writer. They suffer slightly through being juxtaposed with her more rapturous material, but even here there are masterful moments, hand-brake turn transitions, and she rattles out revelations in stories so elegant and compact they could be prose poems ... Dillard is triumphantly awake, and these essays are magnificent and dramatic, illuminating and inspirational. Read them; they brim with abundance.
The Abundance's subtitle, Narrative Essays Old and New, got me all excited — new essays from Annie Dillard! Alas, the subtitle is a cruel lie. There are no new essays here — nothing previously unpublished, and the most recent essay appeared in Harper's Magazine 14 years ago ... But what is here is a distillation of a strange, powerful sensibility, unique in contemporary American letters.