oh, james baldwin. this book is wonderfully, beautifully written. the more i read him, the more i like him. this was his first published novel and it is superb. i write that even knowing that i missed a lot of it because i don't have the religious (specifically christian) knowledge that is the foundation of this book. (i didn't even know that the title is that of a famous hymn until i was mostly through the book.) but reading this you can feel the honesty that baldwin is writing with, and that's kind of a rare thing. he also constructs some of his sentences with a clear biblical structure, and it (amazingly, to me) doesn't sound out of place or awkward. it flows well, even though it's often not how we're used to seeing sentences constructed. i was really surprised by the ending, by john's experience on the threshing floor. i didn't expect him to be called to god at all, and i admit that the last 20 pages or so describing this experience were sadly over my head. i'm interested in baldwin's intention in having john be saved, considering the 'holy' gabriel and his attitude (and evil) throughout. the only thing is, i didn't feel like things with florence were entirely wrapped up. she started something with gabriel, standing up for the kids and elizabeth, but we didn't see that play out. unless she was always standing up for them and nothing ever changed. but we sort of were led to believe that she did that because she knew she would be dying soon. her time at the church was overtaken by john's, and i think we lost a little there, while gaining what we did with his experience.one of the many lovely passages:"At length, she lay beside him like a burden laid down at evening which must be picked up once more in the morning."