An Excellent, Literary, Christian Novel
I have here often decried the lack of good, literate Christian fiction. So much Christian fiction is just bad, cheesy, unrealistic, poorly written. By “Christian fiction” I mean novels in which the main characters are overtly Christian and the “background” story involves Christian thinking about the world and God, etc. I’ve tried reading several such novels, but almost always I have ended up disappointed because the writing is bad and/or the plot is cheesy and unrealistic.
I am re-reading a Christian novel I read some years ago and actually reviewed and recommended here. But most of you probably weren’t following my blog then. Some may have been. For you, this is my reminder to buy this book and read it. You won’t be disappointed.
There’s something else about it (and I will soon reveal its title and author) that is exceptional. The main character is a really, really good father. And not at all the modern or contemporary stereotype of an unfaithful, uncaring, emotionless or just angry and distant father and husband. He is a widower still grieving over the loss of his wife five years before.
The main character is a simple man, a Canadian Catholic Christian, very devout but not pre-Vatican 2, who is obviously well-read, self-taught and influenced by: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, Charles Taylor, et al. He also reads the Bible and prays daily. But he has struggles understanding God’s ways and is open and honest about them with his priest who is a personal friend.
The book is The Father’s Tale by Michael D. O’Brien. O’Brien is better known for his series of apocalyptic novels (not at all dispensational). The Father’s Tale is a “slow burn.” You have to get way into it before you really fall in love with the main character and his passionate, obsessive search for his lost son. Along the way there is much “talk” (stream of consciousness in the main character’s mind) about art, music, culture, history, books, etc. I assume O’Brien is sharing his own thoughts with us through that “talk” in the main character’s mind (some of it between him and his priest and occasionally between him and strangers he meets on his journey).
You find out almost immediately that he loves his two young adult sons very much but does not have enough, for him, contact with them. They have both gone off to college or university and rarely come home. The book is set in a time before email was commonly used and when cell phones were rare. It’s hard to tell exactly when is the time setting for the story but I’m guessing around 1990.
The writing is exceptionally literate for a novel so overtly religious.
The story is about the father’s search for his younger son who went to Oxford University and then suddenly went “off the radar” making two very quick and covert phone calls to his father, both of which were very enigmatic but pointing to his son being involved with an esoteric cult of some kind. With great difficulty, the father goes off to find his son. What a story. What a journey. I won’t give anymore of it away. But if you like fiction, and if, like me, you think there ought to be more good Christian fiction, and if, like me, you are tired of the way men are treated in popular culture, including fiction, you NEED to read this book. I wish it was available on Audible; I’d love to listen to it this time.
I have forgotten enough of it that re-reading it now, after some years, is still very satisfying. I remember things (people, events) as I come to them but not ahead of time. That’s not because it’s forgettable but it’s because it’s a very long book and sometimes I skim through a chapter when it’s not crucial to the main story line. But I’m a speed reader, so even when I “skim” I “get” the main message.
The title “The Father’s Tale” is a common one; there are several novels with that title. Look for the one by this author with the picture of the boy holding a very large toy boat on the cover. Do it, please, and share your thoughts about it with me/us here.