Search >>
Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Pulitzer Prize for Biography
Pulitzer Prize for History
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
National Book Critics Circle Award
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
National Book Award
National Book Award for Fiction
National Book Award for Nonfiction
Man Booker Prize
Man Booker Prize
New York Times Best Books
New York Times Best Fiction Books of the Year
New York Times Best Nonfiction Books of the Year
LA Times Book Prize
LA Times Book Prize for Fiction
TIME Magazine Best Books
TIME Magazine Best Fiction Books of the Year
TIME Magazine Best Nonfiction Books of the Year Best Books Best Books of the Year
ALA Notable Books
ALA Notable Books - Fiction
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction
PEN/Faulkner Award
Pen/Faulkner Award
100 Best Novels
The Novel 100: The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time
Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the Century
FAW Best Books of the Year
Best Books of the Decade
Best Books of 2016
Best Books of 2015
Best Books of 2014
Best Books of 2013
Best Books of 2012
Best Books of 2011
Best Books of 2010
Best Books of 2009
Best Books of 2008
Best Books of 2007
Best Books of 2006
Best Books of 2005
Best Books of 2004
Best Books of 2003
Best Books of 2002
Best Books of 2001
Best Books of 2000
Best Books of 1999
Best Books of 1998
Best Books of 1997
Author Honors
New Yorker 20 Under 40 (2010)
New Yorker Twenty Best Young Fiction Writers in America (1999)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (2007)
Granta Best of Young American Novelists (1996)
Granta Best of Young British Novelists (2003)
MacArthur Fellows in Fiction
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35

Wheat That Springeth Green

Wheat That Springeth Green by J. F. Powers
9 reviews (1988) (327p)
National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction Finalist
National Book Award Finalist

Visit this book's page >>

Book Description
Wheat That Springeth Green, J. F. Powers's beautifully realized final work, is a comic foray into the commercialized wilderness of modern American life. Its hero, Joe Hackett, is a high-school track-star who sets out to be a saint. But seminary life and priestly apprenticeship soon damp his ardor, and by the time he has been given a parish of his own he has traded in his hairshirt for the consolations of baseball and beer. Meanwhile Joe's higher-ups are pressing for an increase in profits from the collection plate, while suburban Inglenook's biggest business wants to launch its new line of missiles with a blessing, and not so far away, in Vietnam, a war is going on. Joe wants to duck and cover, but in the end, almost in spite of himself, he is condemned to do something right.

A virtuoso of the American language, J.F. Powers had a perfect ear for the telling cliche and a unfailing eye for the kitsch, whether material or moral, that clutters up our lives. This funny and very moving novel about the making and the remaking of a priest in a world of discount marts and financial drives is one of his finest achievements. Review
During his famous journey through America in 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville was struck by the peculiar worldliness of religious practice. Unlike their European counterparts, who specialized in visions of heaven, "American preachers are constantly referring to the earth, and it is only with great difficulty that they can divert their attention from it." More than a century later, J.F. Powers built an entire career on this national tendency. And nowhere did he capture the sacred-and-profane balancing act with more amusement than in his 1975 novel, Wheat That Springeth Green. His protagonist, a Great Depression-era child of the Midwest named Joe Hackett, has early dreams of joining the priesthood:
If he decided to be a priest in a religious order, though, he could live out in the country, at a college, and have invigorating walks and talks with students ... and maybe some exciting adventures, and also do good, as often happened in the Father Finn books ("'My God!' cried the atheist") that Sister Agatha read to the class at the end of the day.
Joe eventually attends seminary, is ordained, and finds himself appointed as assistant to a high-octane contemplative, Father Van Slaag. But by the time he gets his own parish, in 1968, he's become an expert at relegating sanctity to the back burner. Overweight, agreeably resigned, Joe accepts the fact that "running a parish, any parish, was like riding a cattle car in the wintertime--you could appreciate the warmth of your dear, dumb friends, but you never knew when you'd be stepped on, or worse."

It takes the arrival of a young, over-earnest curate to jog his idealism back to life. And in return, he imparts to the younger man his knowledge of the "worldly" priesthood--a craft that Powers, no less than de Tocqueville, refuses to condemn. This exchange, which is gradual and grudging on both sides, occupies the greater portion of Wheat That Springeth Green. And the protagonist's regeneration, like that alluded to in the title, seems no less miraculous for being expected. The result is a marvelous, acute novel, which gives to Joe's spiritual rebirth the shape of a classic American comedy--trials and tribulations, and finally, a happy ending. --James Marcus

Other Award Winning Books by J. F. Powers
Morte D'Urban by J. F. Powers
22 reviews (1962) (336p) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's page

J. F. Powers Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 3  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 Wheat That Springeth Green ·  
National Book Award Wins 1 Morte D'Urban ·  
National Book Award Nominations 2 Wheat That Springeth Green · Morte D'Urban ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


Pulitzer Prize | National Book Critics Circle Award | National Book Award | PEN/Faulkner Award | Man Booker Prize | Contact