Jane Smiley’s novel Horse Heaven was published in 2000, about three years after I left the Judaism in which I had grown up and was baptized in the Anglican church. Smiley is quite possibly my favorite living American novelist—I read her novella “The Age of Grief ” at least once annually—and I snatched up Horse Heaven as soon as it hit the stands. It’s a sprawling comic novel about horse racing, a subculture I have little interest in, and it is not my favorite of the Smiley oeuvre: I prefer her quiet, finely grained family stories—Ordinary Love and Good Will, Barn Blind, At Paradise Gate. But one small section of Horse Heaven spoke to me with a force I had mostly felt only when reading liturgy or poetry or epitaphs.