Of all the books I have ever read, this is the one that had the most profound impact on my life. I call this "the book that started the avalanche that brought me here." It's not the best book every written from a literary standpoint--indeed, Williams has serious flaws as a writer of fiction. I'm not saying it's the book I enjoyed most (PILLARS OF THE EARTH warrants that distinction). I'm saying that this book changed my life direction, and more than any other book I have ever read, it made me who I am today. In Williams' novels, one gains a glimpse of an unseen reality, coinhering with our own, but normally invisible to us, that nevertheless influences us, nourishes us, and imperils us (depending on who you are and the choices you make). This vision of mystical reality just rang true for me as nothing else ever has. It influenced my spirituality, my religious affiliation, my creativity, and my choice of academic studies. It has also, more than anything else, formed me as a writer. Sure, he's hard going sometimes. But few works are worth the trouble like this one is. It doesn't just belong on your shelf, it belongs on your altar.