Eclectic Book Club: In the Beauty of the Lilies

Updike's 17th novel opens in 1910, just as Theodore Wilmot's father, a Presbyterian minister, suddenly loses his faith. His loss is visceral, and no amount of intellectualizing can deter him from his realization that he must leave the pulpit if he is to remain true to himself. Eighty years later, Theodore's grandson, a lost soul in the post-Vietnam War era who has found strange comfort in a radical religious cult, experiences his own catharsis, as the flames literally rage around him. In the intervening years, we follow the lives of Theodore himself, a good man who has no outward faith and little ambition, and his daughter, Esther, who becomes a modern-day sort of goddess--a movie star.