The fall harvest of books is in. The fruits of many talented writers and illustrators are stacked on the shelves, just in time for Christmas giving. Here are a few of the most interesting offerings: they range from novels and family sagas to poems and illustrations and songs.

Memories And Mercies

• Images of grace sprinkle the compact story line of Remembering, a novel by Wendell Berry (North Point, $14.95). The action is simple: Andy Catlett, a Kentucky farmer caught up in the frenzied world of agribusiness, comes home from San Francisco. But this is no routine return from a business trip; it is the final return of a prodigal from a long journey. It is the culmination of several stages of return, of repeated memories of a father’s call and touch.

Berry uses water as a particularly striking symbol. For example, during a punishingly hot day of chopping corn, two of Andy’s forebears sink themselves in the cool creek whenever they get too hot. “It was there all the time,” one of the characters muses. “Redemption, a little flowing stream.” This and other family memories draw Andy back to the land. Later, he walks about a farm he intends to buy until he finds a cool, clear spring; he drinks deeply of the water and feels the hurry of his busy life flow out of him.

The motions of grace in this story occur in ordinary life. Reconciliation is both a believable and startling mercy, coming with jet-plane swiftness.

• In Born Brothers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $18.95), author Larry Woiwode extends the crisis of grace over the whole of another young prodigal’s life. Woiwode’s complex plot and writing style portray a different conversion: in one sense, it is all so simple, like “Jesus Loves Me”; yet it is as complex and as confusing as Job ...

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