…There’s a lot going on here. There’s Sophie’s quest for identity (she has three different surnames throughout the novel), a quest she seems to be trying to escape—she wants to surrender to an identity, sink into it, rather than having to go out and conquer and defend it. She doesn’t want her conversion and subsequent changed life to be about her search for self, but about her encounter with God.
There’s a grim consideration of suffering and how it resists narrative. If you demand that your life have a narrative structure, how can you accept ongoing suffering? There are more novels about getting married than being married, more novels about catastrophe than about perseverance. Sophie is caught between her faith, which requires her to believe that suffering is meaningful—that it does form a long narrative whose resolution lurks just beyond the last page, in the afterlife—and the people and culture around her who insist that it’s meaningless.
Beha hasn’t written a novel of perseverance. That’s not surprising.
What’s surprising is that he knows that such a novel would be harder to write; he knows that writing despair and closure is the easier choice.