I am doing a blog series on Novels Every Christian Should Consider Reading.
Offering a recommendation today is Lore Ferguson, a writer and graphic designer living in Dallas, TX. She describes her life as “small, simple, and ever in an ongoing effort to make it more so.”
She writes at sayable.net and can be followed on Twitter at @loreferguson.
If you have anything good to say about a particular book, you ought to at least have a few good things to say about its plot as well. Whenever I recommend my favorite particular book, I’m asked: “What is it about?” The words catch—sometimes on the end of my tongue, sometimes in the back of my throat—because the truth is I don’t know.The Brothers K (not to be confused with The Brothers Karamazov, which it will be anyway) is a book about a family, and this is how I recommend it in a singular sentence. It is a book about the family Chance, as told by one of four Chance brothers, Kincaid.
I heard of The Brothers K from an author friend who had named his son after Kincade. I knew then I must have missed the great American novel as an English major while under piles of Gilgamesh and Shakespeare, for which I will never forgive my professors.
Paul says whatever is good and true and pure, to think on these things, and I know he meant it, but sometimes I wonder if that meant we were never to think of the evil, untrue, and defiled things that pass to and fro beneath the front we offer everyone else. The truth is there is evil and defilement in my heart, and I must think on those things to lead me to the kindness of God on the way to repentance. David James Duncan simmers the brokenness of family, heart, war, and world in this 645-page novel, and never boils it over. There is not gratuitous delight in brokenness, but there is neither a turning away of the things that break us all.
The tension holding the book together is the voice of Kincaid, growing into adulthood, processing and reprocessing the life he’s been born into and the life he eventually chooses. But the real tension is that the reader will see himself there in the questions Kincaid asks and the ones that are asked of him, the observations we all make but are afraid to say.
Like many a Christian before them, Mama and the Elder justified their machinations with Christ’s famous sentence: ‘I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ And like many a Christian before them, they completely forgot that the only sword-shaped weapon Jesus ever actually used was the one He died on.
Some might see observations like these as gratuitous jabs against Christianity, and I might agree, but gratuitous jabs are the fully-grown progeny of doubts never voiced. If you read it slowly, and finish it well, you will have grown alongside the Chance family, asking existential questions and mulling on philosophical differences, but you will also have grown to love them. This is why The Brothers K is a book Christians ought to read (though I’m wary of saying must read).
I felt free to like all three of these men now, because I’d realized I didn’t have to become them.
Would that we all could say those words.