Earning Innocence by Andrew Taylor-Troutman
Resource Publications (an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers), 2015
Reviewed by Carol Ferguson
In his first novel, Earning Innocence, Andrew Taylor-Troutman gives the reader entrance to the mind of Rev. James Wheeler, a mind both precise in its renderings of the everyday and aware to the indwelling of the transcendent. Wheeler, a husband, father, and Moravian pastor, takes to the page to record his life, but more than that, to order, disorder, and reorder it again. Taylor-Troutman’s narrative is thick with the study of memory. Though the story is contained in just eight late summer days, Wheeler moves through the crash and eddy of a lifetime of memories, finding meaning in the way old stories slap up against the new ones. Many of the events of Earning Innocence are familiar and ordinary—celebrating an anniversary, taking a dog for a walk, writing a sermon, eating a family dinner—yet in Taylor-Troutman’s hands they become windows into the faith that transforms ordinary into breathtakingly holy.
Throughout, Taylor-Troutman taunts with stories that might become The Conflict—an accident, a death, a combative son. Yet as soon as each rises, it slides away again, taking its place in the realm of memory, painful but past. In the end, Wheeler’s struggle is not with The Moment that Changes Everything, but with The Moment that Shouldn’t Have Changed Anything At All—an admission by his oldest son. The book concludes with a deep sense of hope, however, that the breach between them can be repaired, and that the innocence of a father’s love for his son can be re-earned.
Taylor-Troutman has created a true community on the page, and I find I want to be a part of it again. I am glad he intends to revisit these characters in another novel.
Wheeler’s mantra is this: “so much of prayer is a calling to mind.” In Earning Innocence, Taylor-Troutman calls to our minds the limping blessings of family and faith. If a book can be a prayer, this one certainly is. I found myself whispering Amen as I closed it.
Carol Ferguson is a native of Salem, VA, a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, and a final-level MDiv student at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA. A candidate for ordination in the Presbytery of the Peaks, she is currently seeking her first call to pastoral ministry.