By Dina Sleiman
This book went on my must read list when Athol started talking about it on Novel Rocket. He predicted although probably his best book, it would also be his biggest commercial flop. Why? Well, in addition to being very “edgy” for the CBA market, in other words realistic, it’s also his most literary book.
So of course I had to have it. The very next amazon gift card I received immediately went towards purchasing this book. I mean, even if I hadn’t known much about it, the name and cover themselves would have been enough to intrigue me.
And the contents did not disappoint. I can’t say this is one of those books that kept me riveted, and I didn’t put down. In fact the opposite is true. I found that again and again I had to pause for upwards to a day to digest and reflect upon what I had read. But I will say this, it’s going on my top five all-time favorite novels list. If forced to pick a spot at this very moment, I’d probably put it at number two, but it’s a little early to make that final decision.
Why did I love it? First of all, the main character is a brilliant artist. After a near death experience, he’s determined to paint “the glory” as he calls it. But he can’t quite remember it. He can’t quite grasp it. So he begins a worldwide quest through the major religions of our time in search of it.
Will everyone love this book as much as I do? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re looking for fluff, don’t even bother. But if you love a book that will challenge you and make you grow, then dash immediately over to amazon and buy it, because it’s right up there with the best of the best. It’s not the fastest paced book, although there is ample romance and suspense to keep you interested and provide entertainment value. The structure is sort of odd, and yet it serves the story. At times, it delves into the realms of magical realism in a beautiful and symbolic way that brings to life the wonders of the spiritual world.
In his quest through the world’s religions, Athol uses a delicate hand both in showing the beauty that does exist and the areas where they fall short. Although he never clearly states, “Jesus is the way,” I believe he showed that with gorgeous symbolism that lived up to the theme of the book. For him to have pinned it down and become didactic, would have undermined this book as a great piece of literature. And Lord knows we have few enough of those in Christian fiction.
I simply loved every moment of this novel. But I think what I loved the most was the quest for the ultimate beauty. God is the quintessential beauty. He is beauty personified. Too often I think we overlook that in Christianity. We focus on laws and rules and theologies and forget about the unparalleled bliss of a relationship with the divine. There are two new books that came out in 2011 called Beauty Will Save the World. And I think it’s true. This generation will not be drawn to God through ration and reason, but rather through beauty and love. Please join me on Thursday, February 1st as I delve further into this topic.