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One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder for the Spiritual and Nonspiritual Alike

4.65  ·  Rating details ·  865 ratings  ·  237 reviews
A playful, deeply moving book of spiritual essays-for the spiritual and non-spiritual alike-that excavate the rich seams of examined life and point to the miracles that surround us.

When Brian Doyle died of brain cancer at the age of sixty, he left behind dozens of books -- fiction and nonfiction, as well as hundreds of essays -- and a cult-like following who regarded
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published December 3rd 2019 by Little, Brown and Company
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Average rating 4.65  · 
Rating details
 ·  865 ratings  ·  237 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Like petty and shorts stories, I love essays because they allow one to dip in and out of reading whenever one wants. This one though I read even more slowly and with a certain amount of sadness, knowing this wonderful author passed on at the early age of sixty.

These essays are written with a sense of wonder, and grace. There is humor and sadness, wonder and delight. Stories of the last, when his wife gave birth to twin boys, one who would need more than one surgery. The difference in the boys as
Diane Barnes
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
A lot of people don't like reading essays for the same reason they don't really like reading short stories; they're too brief, they end abruptly, you don't have time to get "invested" in the piece. That's the very reason I do love them though, because sometimes I don't have the time or energy to give, but I still want to be mentally enriched by the printed word.
These essays have enriched my bedtime reading for a couple of weeks now, because each one of them is a perfect little nugget of perfect
Brian Doyle seems to have been a person who was in love with life, all aspects of life. And he seems to have lived his life fully. Doyle wrote novels and stories but essays, published in a variety of outlets, were his mainstay. Before his death in 2017, he agreed to having his friend David Duncan create this final collection of some of his essays.

The focus of many, if not most, of of his essays, here and elsewhere, is the spiritual realm and the natural world. For me, it appears that Doyle view
First and foremost, we can agree that it was a terrible loss for the literary world when Brian Doyle died of a brain tumor last year. Only 60, too. And one thing that particularly struck me was an essay in this collection where he wrote about his older brother's death at the tender age of 64. The funeral and wake included the Doyle brothers' parents, both in their 80s and, at the time, hale and hearty (I do not know if both are still alive today, however).

Reading this, I said to myself, "Whateve
Bill Landau
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
To an introverted librarian like myself, finding yourself in a situation where you must talk to a total stranger for one hour is normally pretty excruciating. But that was not the case when the stranger I got to talk to for an hour was author, Brian Doyle.
It was September 14, 2014 and I had scheduled Brian to speak at the Pacific City Library, one of the little libraries I manage on the Oregon coast. With the program scheduled at 1:00 pm, I arrived at 11:30 am to set up chairs...and was surprise
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I came across a question in a book group on social media the other day: If you were stranded on a desert island, which author's work would you wish you had? The answer bubbled up immediately for me, but I wasn't surprised: Brian Doyle. Has ever a human written such a glorious body of work? His ability to capture the human condition, with the enormous spectrum of emotions we all feel, is almost otherworldly. While you sit in awe of that talent, he'll have you giggling until your stomach hurts; th ...more
AJ Nolan
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful, deeply true book. I have read Doyle's essays here and there over the years, mostly in the pages of Orion, but to sit and swim in his prose, short essay after short essay, was a wonderful thing, especially since he seems to have been a man fully in love with life. ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, theology
Just hours before the conclusion of 2019, I have read the best book of the year, hands down. Doyle is a gift beyond words. This is required reading for any human.
Apr 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I happened to discover this beautiful book in one of my favorite bookstores—Jabberwocky in Newburyport. (No surprise that the booksellers there selected such a good book.) After I read the first piece which begins with an invitation to consider the hummingbird and, in particular, its heart, I called my mother and read it to her. Then, I went upstairs where my husband was working on some writing (a little reluctantly but recognizing its importance) and read it to him. Then, the next day, told my ...more
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of vignettes, essays and poems which range from funny to heart breaking, mundane to reflective, political to philosophical, but above all, they are heartfelt and honest. His philosophical musings are of the common man, not the esoteric type. Some topics seem close to the author; marriage, parenthood, kids, childhood. Some themes as well; joy, pleasure, stillness, pain and loss. He also has an affinity for nature and animals, especially birds.

These were my favourite stories:

Aarik Danielsen
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dear Coherent Mercy,

Thank you for creating Brian Doyle, the miracle-worker. These essays are little mercies. And I thank you for each one.

Amen and amen.
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Shelves: essays, bio-memoir
I discovered the delightful world of Brian Doyle seven years ago, beginning with his novel Mink River, and immediately immersed myself in any and all of his novels and essays, Broadway Books in Portland, Oregon, being my favorite shop to stop in and browse - there's a bookshelf dedicated to his books only. I had the good fortune to happen upon an all-day workshop with Mr. Doyle as well as an evening session of talking and reading - both filled with people who genuinely loved the person as well a ...more
Jeanette (Now on StoryGraph)

This is a good collection to read when you're feeling a little cynical and you need a balm for your battered spirit.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At the end of the Seamus Heaney poem "Postscript" are these lines: "You are neither here nor there, / A hurry through which known and strange things pass / As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways / And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."

Brian Doyle's art was to catch the heart off guard and blow it open, over and over and over again. Doyle writes like a waterfall, and to read his essays is like standing in front of one, stilled by the magnitude of the torrent before you. His pre
Janisse Ray
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I corresponded with Brian Doyle in the years past, usually sending him a story occasionally in the hope that he would take it for the magazine he edited. I read his stories regularly when I could find them in magazines, especially in ORION. I was so sad when I learned he was ill and then when he died.

A good friend of mine recommended this collection to me. I ordered it, read it slowly, an essay or two at a time, savoring them, and I truly loved it. When I finally finished, I mailed the book imme
Sherry Deatrick
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book. One that I will read over and over.
Brian relishes in the wonder and beauty of everyday things. He find simple things, examines them fully and relates them to us as beautiful moments.
I read Brian's devotions in Guideposts through the years and always enjoyed them. I am happy to have his thoughts now where I can go back and reread and ponder.
I received a complimentary copy from the NetGalley but the opinions and review are entirely my own.
Bonnie DeMoss
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful book by the late Brian Doyle. This collection of essays makes you look at the world in a different way. It helps you see the beauty and wonder all around you.

I was given a free copy of this book by NetGalley and have provided this review voluntarily.
Chris LaTray
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I was aware of this book being in process long before it finally appeared, as friends were involved in its collecting, publishing, etc. I have been fortunate to be asked to read from it in public on two occasions, with a third pending. All this is a way of saying I feel closer to it than I do most books, as if engaging with work from a close friend even though I never met Brian Doyle in any context other than his writing.

It is a beautiful book. Doyle's essays are heartwarming, funny, gorgeous, a
Megan Jeffrey
Feb 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
If you want to feel better about the world, and wonder at your place in it, read this book.
Anna Richey
Dec 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
The essays weren't all my cup of tea, and for some reason I was expecting more outdoorsy nature-inspired topics, but most were beautiful and poetic and inspiring. ...more
Jul 01, 2020 rated it really liked it

“Something is opening in me, some new eye. I talk less and listen more. Stories wash over me all day like tides. I walk through the bright wet streets and every moment a story comes to me, people hold them out like sweet children, and I hold them squirming and holy in my arms and they enter my heart for a while, and season and salt sweeten that old halting engine and teach me humility and mercy, the only lessons that matter, the lessons of the language I most wish to learn; a tongue best spoken
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I attended a Brian Doyle reading in July 2016 for my town’s “city read”, Martin Marten. He was funny, inspiring and so very likable. Less than a year later, in June 2017, he died of an aggressive brain cancer. What a huge loss!

This book is a collection of Doyle’s short pieces, essays and poems. His delightful personality, spirituality, wit and love of his family absolutely leap off the page, and reading it felt like having a wide-ranging conversation with a close friend. I loved everything about
Dec 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There’s a lot to say about an absolutely breathtaking writer like Brian Doyle, so I will try to keep it concise: these are the essays you carry with you for the rest of your life, that make you rethink how you see something as simple as a bird or how you hear a sound (or silence).

Remarkably funny at times, he has an amazing way of evoking spirituality and thoughtfulness in a way that isn’t pushy, but just brings you to the point of asking important questions about your own faith. Some of my favo
Jen H
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I finished reading this book on Sunday afternoon, but needed to sit on it for a bit before writing this review. I knew before I began reading the book that the author had died of brain cancer before the essays in the book were compiled, and I knew the book impressed my current writing instructor. What I wasn't prepared for was my own reaction to the book as a whole.

The book made me want to write, not too surprising, really, considering that writing is something I love to do, but this book was d
Robert Lane
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Doyle, who passed away in 2017, was the editor of Portland, the University of Portland’s alumni magazine. He is also the author of several novels and collection of essays. One Long River of Song is such a collection. Most of these emotionally stirring stories are just a few pages in length.

Doyle takes a every day life—the beauty of a hawk, riding bikes to the beach with his brother, Memorial Day, an old typewriter in the basement (his father’s), himself interviewing himself (superbly done), pa
Jan Cain
Mar 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh, we miss you, Brian Doyle. The way you wrote about your children made me cry, and I am not one to cry, but you captured the essence of all the complex feelings that define being a loving, worried, protective parent. The way you write about otters and hawks, with such gratitude, with such excitement, with such reverence, is the antidote we need in such troubled times. And your faith is expressed without guile, pure and genuine, sincere without being preachy.
And thank you for adoring your wife
David Doel
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If you only read one entry from this book, read "The Wonder of the Look on Her Face." If you read a second, read the one right after it ("The Old Typewriter in the Basement"). If you read those two, you'll discover this book is like a bag of potato chips (you can't stop eating).

Are these two the best? Probably not. I could have just as easily chosen "Clairtonica Street" followed by "Dawn and Mary" to lure you in. Not all the entries will grab you, but a lot will and you will be exposed to a wond
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Five stars doesn't even begin to honor this book. It has been sitting next to my bed for awhile just waiting for this pandemic to give pause to my life and socially isolate me from friends and family. Reading these short essays daily has been a spiritual journey. I have long loved Brian Doyle's various works, especially Mink River and The Plover. I didn't want this book to end. I cried and laughed and cried again throughout the pages. I thank his family and friends who called back the essays fro ...more
Ned Hayes
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-reading, lit
I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to know the writing of Brian Doyle this past year. I was introduced to his work by the wonderful and amazing Kirstin McAuley at the Oregon Episcopal School, and she’s kindly agreed to allow me to re-post her audio reading of Doyle’s essay from his post-humous book One Long River of Song: Notes on Wonder.

Here's a short biography of Brian Doyle, as well as a recorded audio version of one of the essays from this marvelous post-humous book:
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
While I had read Doyle’s “Mink River” and loved it, I didn’t know his writing. This posthumous collection (sadly, for he died young) is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read. It will make you laugh, cry, and everything in between. Of the 65 essays and prose poems, many of them short, 50 of them are like brilliant star. A beautiful book. Now, down to the library to read more of his work....
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Doyle's essays and poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The American Scholar, Orion, Commonweal, and The Georgia Review, among other magazines and journals, and in The Times of London, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Kansas City Star, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Ottawa Citizen, and Newsday, among other newspapers. He was a book reviewer for The Oregonian and a contributing es ...more

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“So much held in a heart in a lifetime. So much held in a heart in a day, an hour, a moment. We are utterly open with no one, in the end -- not mother and father, not wife or husband, not lover, not child, not friend. We open windows to each but we live alone in the house of the heart. Perhaps we must. Perhaps we could not bear to be so naked, for fear of a constantly harrowed heart. When young we think there will come one person who will savor and sustain us always; when we are older we know this is the dream of a child, that all hearts finally are bruised and scarred, scored and torn, repaired by time and will, patched by force of character, yet fragile and rickety forevermore, no matter how ferocious the defense and how many bricks you bring to the wall. You can brick up your heart as stout and tight and hard and cold and impregnable as you possibly can and down it comes in an instant, felled by a woman's second glance, a child's apple breath, the shatter of glass in the road, the words 'I have something to tell you,' a cat with a broken spine dragging itself into the forest to die, the brush of your mother's papery ancient hand in a thicket of your hair, the memory of your father's voice early in the morning echoing from the kitchen where he is making pancakes for his children.” 110 likes
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