A-Tumblin’ Down: A Novel

by Sarah Hinlicky Wilson

It’s one thing to claim faith… another thing to live by faith… and yet another thing to live by faith when your whole life comes a-tumblin’ down…


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About the Book

The year is 1988, and the Abney family is settled in at Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church in rural Shibboleth, New York.

Their life is not without its challenges. Pastor Donald is haunted by the probing, judging memory of his revivalist grandfather. His wife Carmichael struggles to feel at home, a task not made any easier by her parents’ inconvenient revelation of family secrets. Eleven-year-old Kitty is equally averse to growing up and to insufferable classmate Megan. At least little Saul and Asher, born within a year of each other, are content as they explore the meadow on the steep hillside surrounding church and parsonage.

Then tragedy strikes, shattering family and faith. A faction in the congregation exploits the disaster, threatening to rob the Abneys of what little is left of their impoverished life.

A-Tumblin’ Down topples headlong into grief and explores the strong grace needed to survive. Yet the story is not only sad and serious; it’s also funny, joyful, and enchanted. Even a tragic world abounds in wonders beyond belief, as the Abney family comes to see by the novel’s triumphant and satisfying, but not simplistic, ending.

For super-fans only: check out the Palimpsest Guide to A-Tumblin’ Down, full of details about the origins and writing process of this book, plus details and explanations not included in the novel itself, and explorations of its deeper themes.

And for hungry readers in particular: download the Mt. Moriah Lutheran Church Cookbook for twelve desserts from characters in the novel, not only delicious but also windows into character…!

About the Author

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson writes, walks, cooks, and podcasts in Tokyo, Japan, where she lives with her husband and son. She’s the founder of Thornbush Press, a prolific author, and serves as Associate Pastor at Tokyo Lutheran Church.

Follow her work and sign up for her quarterly e-newsletter Theology & a Recipe at www.sarahhinlickywilson.com.

Listen to her new fiction podcast, Sarah Hinlicky Wilson Stories, and her long-running theology podcast Queen of the Sciences: Conversations between a Theologian and Her Dad, with Paul R. Hinlicky (her dad—you guessed it!).

Praise for A-Tumblin’ Down

Not many theologians write fiction; we should probably be grateful for that. But there are notable exceptions: Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, for instance. This new book, her first novel (though not her first work of fiction), counters preconceptions about what a theologically informed novel should look like. A fat family saga, it is subversively chatty, funny, relaxed, even as it also encompasses tragedy.” —John Wilson, First Things

“The story of a pastor and his family as they’re going through normal life, and the some pretty intense suffering and tragedy… intimate and detailed… [bringing] a human element to the ministry and the life of a pastor. I loved it.” —Kelsi Klembara, Outside Ourselves podcast

“This nuanced account of grief, grace, and the life of the clerical family all make this book well worth your attention. Whether you want to experience through the Abney family the challenges, absurdities, and joys of clergy family life, or whether you are weighed down by grief or a difficult season in ministry, A-Tumblin’ Down may give you a glimpse of grace, too.” —Allison Zbicz Michael, The Living Church

“By the end I had chills. My mind was blown in fifty different ways!” —Gretchen Ronnevik and Katie Koplin, Freely Given podcast

“Do yourself a favor and buy the audio version of the novel so you can hear Hinlicky Wilson cleverly act out all the characters in the novel. Who knew she was such an accomplished actress in addition to her myriad other talents?” —Dennis Di Mauro, Simul