Lindvall, Michael L(loyd) 1947-
LINDVALL, Michael L(loyd) 1947-
PERSONAL: Born June 24, 1947, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Lloyd Calvin and Jeanne Elizabeth Lindvall; married Terri Vaun Smith; children: Madeline, Benjamin, Grace. Education: University of Wisconsin, B.A., 1970; Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1974. Politics: Independent. Religion: Presbyterian.
CAREER: Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church, Ferndale, MI, associate pastor, 1974-79; First Presbyterian Church of Northport, Long Island, NY, pastor, 1979-92; First Presbyterian Church of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI, senior pastor, 1992—.
The Good News from North Haven: A Year in the Life of a Small Town, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1991.
The Christian Life: A Geography of God, Geneva Press (Louisville, KY), 2001.
Leaving North Haven: The Further Adventures of a Small Town Pastor, Crossroad (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Good Housekeeping.
WORK IN PROGRESS: A spiritual murder mystery.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael L. Lindvall is a Presbyterian minister whose experiences with small-town life in Minnesota and Michigan are reflected in his fiction. The Good News from North Haven: A Year in the Life of a Small Town and Leaving North Haven: The Further Adventures of a Small Town Pastor both contain episodes that originally came to life as sermons in Lindvall's church. Good News includes eighteen interwoven stories that span a year in the life of a rural congregation, told by the pastor of a fictional Protestant church in a declining farm-town in southwestern Minnesota. Through the eyes of the narrator and his wife, Lindvall explores timeless truths and the ways in which they reveal themselves through the most routine events of life. Many of the characters in Good News appear again in Leaving North Haven. Reviewing that book, a Publishers Weekly contributor compared Lindvall's stories to those of Garrison Keillor and Quaker author Philip Gulley. Lindvall "doesn't succeed quite as well as either," yet "his voice is pleasant, and several of the essays are lovely." The writer concluded that "this enjoyable book will find a home with readers who cherish tales of smalltown life as seen through a spiritual lens." Cindy Crosby, a writer for Christianity Today, found that the stories' origins in the pulpit were at times perhaps too obvious, but still recommended the "homespun" tales as a sure bet for "charming readers."
Lindvall recalled the origins of his writing style, once telling CA: "Years ago I heard American humorist Garrison Keillor read a 'letter' on his radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. The letter was a long, rambling fiction, ostensibly addressed to Keillor from some long-lost friend who explained—evocatively and poignantly, to all of us as we listened to Keillor read it—why he had not succumbed to a recently presented temptation to fall into adultery. The conceit of a letter written to oneself by a nonexistent friend struck me as an intriguing way to tell a story from a distance. It also occurred to me that it might offer an occasional counterpoint to the rhythm of more traditional preaching."
"Over the next few years, I wrote several stories imbedded in 'letters,' and read them to the congregation I was pastoring on the North Shore of Long Island. I presented them as though they were real correspondence from an old classmate now pastoring a tiny church in the Midwest. These 'letters from Dave' arrived once or twice a year and always—'providentially,' as I told the Sunday congregation—during an especially busy week when I was unable to find the time to put a sermon together. I never publicly owned the fact that there was no Dave, the existence or nonexistence of whom became a matter of much local speculation. Even when everyone knew that there was no Dave Battles and no North Haven, Minnesota, the congregation faithfully continued to play at the ruse. 'Had any letters from Dave lately, Pastor?' they asked."
The idea of "weaving" these tales into a book came from an editor at Good Housekeeping magazine, where some of Lindvall's letter-stories were published in 1987 and 1990. Reflecting on the setting of the book, Lindvall explained: "Many of the stories in Good News from North Haven are loosely based on my memories of small town life, or on remembrances told to me by friends and family over the years. At first I had set the stories in central Illinois, a part of the world I have only seen from Interstate 70. My editor asked me if I knew much about the area. I admitted that I really didn't, so he asked what part of the world I knew best. I told him Minnesota, but said that I thought Garrison Keillor owned it. 'No, he doesn't,' he answered. North Haven moved to Minnesota. The world of the small town, now largely foreign in experience to most American readers, is nevertheless an evocative, symbolically powerful, almost mythic world. In a sense, it is where we are all from, or, more accurately, where we imagine ourselves to be from. In such places abide little churches, most of which function as large, extended families full of character and characters, a community in which all the complexities and dramas of human life are played out. They are played in a slightly different key in small towns and little churches, but the melody seems familiar to suburbanites and urbanites alike. In fact, the tune often sounds fresher in another key."
Lindvall added: "Most of the stories in this book are 'religious,' but without the deadly earnestness of much religious fiction. My goal was to make a book that might be read both by people who recognize God's presence in their lives and by those who long to sense that presence but have found it elusive, perhaps because they have not disciplined themselves to look closely.
"Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the experience of having written this book has been receiving letters and calls from readers who have found some of their own story in one of these tales. I don't know that a writer (or a preacher) can ask for much more than the occasional assurance that you have expressed what you have come to know as true in such a way that others recognize the experience as their own, as well."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christianity Today, December 9, 2002, Cindy Crosby, review of Leaving North Haven: The Further Adventures of a Small Town Pastor, p. 63.
Publishers Weekly, October 21, 2002, review of Leaving North Haven, p. 56.*