08 March, 2008


This is actually two reviews put into one, so does not flow perfectly smoothly; nevertheless, it's worth posting, i think:

This has been a hard review to write; it is, in fact, right now a week and a half since i finished the book, and i'm still not sure what i want to say about it. Apparently it affected Dad & Susan well, too, because they bought and sent copies to all nine of us, a couple of months ago. I don't know which (if any) of the others have read it, but i have ~ twice now since Christmas ~ and so has Lynne.

Let's see; the book starts quite unpromisingly, i think. I don't mean the death of Missy, the little daughter of the protagonist, though that is painful it is not a bad beginning; somehow, i found that the narration was a bit difficult to get myself into. There was no question that i was going to continue with it ~ i was committed to it, probably because D&S had spoken highly of it ~ but despite that commitment i slogged just a bit at first. Nevertheless, once i was into it, certainly by the time Mack, the protagonist, returned to the place of his daughter's death, and met the three persons there, i found it moving quickly enough to hold my interest and desire to know what was going to happen, what they were going to say.

“Say” because much ~ almost all ~ of what is important in the book is contained in the dialogue between Mack and the other Three. It is not a straight exposition, but it could have been that way and quite boring; Young, however, has done a great job, in my opinion, of avoiding any theological or doctrinal prose, and allowed his beliefs and understanding of God to come to the fore through the narration, just as in the Bible story God is revealed. It has always been clear, i have previously preached, i think, that God reveals himself through story, not through theology and doctrine; this book has simply made this point clearer to me, as i have read and meditated on the story in it.

It is, in fact, a story pretending to be true; and truth masquerading as story. Perhaps the words and the phrasing aren't perfect, but i can't really think of a better way to describe the book I was more moved the second time that i read it ~ if this is a linear relationship, a couple more times through it and i will be weeping openly from beginning to end; that might not be a bad thing, i suppose, so long as i understand, and am better able to live in, the reality of the relationship within God and between me and God.

The experience of Mack with the God revealed as Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu is glorious; the way that Papa talks with him, leads him to the point of forgiveness, and helps him to understand, is wonderful; the image of Jesus snickering as Mack gets his shoes and socks wet walking on the lake is lovely; and Sarayu is now, more than ever, a person i want to know and experience. Together these stories make this one of the most enjoyable books i've read recently; and certainly the most exciting for me: I have taken to Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, and i am finding that my prayers are a bit realer for me. A Good Thing. Once again, the grace with which Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu open themselves to the possibility of loss, and the joy with which they reclaim their beloved Mack fills me with emotion i don't understand, but i want the reality behind it. Yes, Papa, more of you; more of Jesus; Sarayu.

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