Faith and Fiction Roundtable: Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

ForbiddenForbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
Published by Center Street, an imprint of Hachette
Review copy provided by the publisher

In the not too distant future, the leaders of the free world have somehow built a world in which emotions do not exist. The only emotion people have the ability to feel is fear – which is perfect, because it keeps everyone afraid of what might happen if their leaders were ousted, and it keeps them in complete oblivion as to the possibility of living with actual feelings. But one day, a young man named Rom is accosted by an older man and handed a vial of blood that, when consumed, will give him the ability to feel emotions – essentially bringing his soul to life. But at what cost?

I haven’t ever read anything by Ted Dekker, but I’ve been seeing his books around for as long as I can remember. So when the Faith and Fiction Roundtable chose Forbidden as our next selection, I was excited to dive into Dekker’s work (and Tosca Lee’s, of course, although I am less familiar with her previous novels than with Dekker’s). I can definitely say that I enjoyed the experience of reading this novel, and although I won’t count it as a favorite by any means, I’m intrigued enough by the story to  want to read the sequel upon its release.

There were two huge aspects of the novel that I found to be discussion-worthy. The first, which is something that Hannah pointed out too, is that Dekker and Lee did an excellent job illustrating how important emotions are to our humanity. I am, by nature, an extremely emotional person – the kind of person you see described as “wearing her heart on her sleeve”. I tend to get my feelings hurt easily, I tend to care deeply about things that others might not spend one iota of time thinking about, and sometimes my emotions get in the way of what needs to be accomplished in my life (for example, career-wise). I’ve always thought of this as a negative part of my personality, especially in the sense that emotions don’t mix well with the industry in which I am employed. But I was cheered by how clear Forbidden showed how valuable emotions really are. And how, if we were to lose our ability to feel, everything that is essentially human about us would be gone too. It’s true – the fact that we can feel love, pain, sadness, etc., is an essential part of being human, and I loved how much the book reminded me that it is okay to be emotional at times. It makes me human.

The second aspect of Forbidden that was discussion-worthy, and this one I admit I didn’t talk about with the Roundtable participants, is the idea of using fear as a tool to manipulate the public. In this world, there is only one emotion which is fear, but that allows the people to be completely under their leaders’ spell. This reminded me a lot of the way sometimes politicians in the US – and the media, too – will use fear as a tactic to manipulate people’s thought processes and help them make decisions. Fear is a huge motivator for people, especially when it comes to things that are truly important (such as their kids’ education, keeping a job, being able to retire, etc.) and time and time again I have seen politicians use fear to encourage the public to vote their way. It always saddens me, and it saddens me even more that people fall for it. So I have to admit that this world created by Dekker and Lee didn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. The part where people have zero emotions wasn’t realistic, true. But the part where people allowed the fear instilled in them by their leaders to motivate their decisions? So possible. And scary.

Anyway, Forbidden was an interesting novel that gave me much food for thought. I would recommend the book, but keep in mind it’s very dystopian in nature and not exactly the most realistic of novels. And there is a bit of blood and gore. But I did enjoy it and will be reading the sequel when it is released.

Please visit the other participants of The Faith and Fiction Roundtable to see what they thought of the book!

Book Hooked Blog | Book Journey | Books and Movies | Crazy for Books | Ignorant Historian | Linus’ Blanket | My Friend Amy | My Random Thoughts | Roving Reads | Semicolon | The 3 R’s | Tina’s Book Reviews | Victorious Cafe | Wordlily

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker (Faith and Fiction Roundtable)

9781599905273Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Published by Bloomsbury Kids
Review copy provided by the publicist

Lacey Anne Byer is a good girl, a teenager who listens to her parents and believes every word her Evangelical church teaches her. She’s excited to be involved in the upcoming production of Hell House, a play of sorts that her church does every year in order to show people what sin can do to their lives and encourage them to turn away from that life and accept Jesus. But when Ty, the new boy in school, catches Lacey’s attention her world begins to tilt on its axis. As her feelings for him grow stronger, and their conversations about faith grow more intense, she begins to actually question the things she’s been taught.

Small Town Sinners was the fourth selection for the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, and I’m happy we chose this one because although the subject matter is a bit heavy, the book itself is on the lighter side. After some of the other books we’ve read, I needed something like this!

As for my personal feelings on this novel, I did enjoy reading it. I thought the characters, while not all of them likable, were interesting enough and definitely thought-provoking. Although most of the adults seemed to be stereotypical Christian adults, even caricatures, the teens were more realistic and I definitely rooted for Lacey in particular. I liked the fact that Walker doesn’t provide easy answers for Lacey (or for the reader), as I think that easy answers are very, very hard to come by in reality. Some of the members of the roundtable would have preferred for a more solid ending, but I liked the fact that Lacey was left with even more questions in the end. She needed to keep asking those questions in order to understand and really begin to live out her faith, as opposed to the faith that was drilled into her head her entire life.

And that brings me to another point. The thing that I found most interesting about Small Town Sinners was its portrayal of this particular kind of Evangelical church and the way in which the children of that church are taught. These teens were not taught to examine their faith critically, to read the Bible and attempt to understand it, or to seek out God’s love in a positive way. It was all about drilling things into their heads, indoctrinating them into Evangelism, and teaching them that the immediate consequence of disbelief and poor behavior is Hell. It felt like brainwashing to me and it made me so uncomfortable. I personally have never experienced this kind of faith, as I was not raised in a Christian home and, although I have always believed in God, didn’t truly become a Christian until my early twenties. But I can tell you that I knew kids who went to churches like this in high school, and my impression of them was not too favorable. I just did not understand how a person can blindly follow one’s parents and elders in such a way that thinking for yourself is not even an option. I just didn’t get it as a teen, and now as an adult my heart breaks for children and teens raised this way.

But it did make me consider how difficult it must be as a Christian parent, to instill a deep sense of faith in your children while at the same time giving them room to explore and understand their faith and ask the questions necessary to build a solid relationship with God. Carrie mentioned this a bit in our discussion, how this is something she tries to do with her own kids, and it really made me think. It must be easy, as a parent, to want to avoid questions and just teach your children to obey God, but I can’t imagine that it’s the most constructive for the child. Eventually, kids will begin to ask questions and if they wait until they are adults they may not appreciate the answers they find. I am not a parent, but I cannot imagine how challenging this balance must be for parents. So I seriously and admiringly applaud all of you who parent with grace, understanding, compassion, and most of all openness to your child’s own faith journey.

Check out what the other participants thought of Small Town Sinners:

Book Hooked BlogBook JourneyBooks and MoviesCrazy for BooksIgnorant HistorianLinus’s BlanketMy Friend AmyMy Random ThoughtsRoving ReadsSemicolonThe 3 R’s BlogTina’s Book ReviewsVictorious Cafe, and Word Lily

 

 

 

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller (Faith and Fiction Roundtable)

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller
Published by Harper Voyager, an imprint of HarperCollins

I can’t even begin to attempt a summary for this book, so I’ll give you the publisher’s summary instead:

In a nightmarish ruined world slowly awakening to the light after sleeping in darkness, the infant rediscoveries of science are secretly nourished by cloistered monks dedicated to the study and preservation of the relics and writings of the blessed Saint Isaac Leibowitz. From here the story spans centuries of ignorance, violence, and barbarism, viewing through a sharp, satirical eye the relentless progression of a human race damned by its inherent humanness to recelebrate its grand foibles and repeat its grievous mistakes. Seriously funny, stunning, and tragic, eternally fresh, imaginative, and altogether remarkable, A Canticle for Leibowitz retains its ability to enthrall and amaze. It is now, as it always has been, a masterpiece.

A Canticle for Leibowitz was the third selection of the year for the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, a group of bloggers who like to read faith-based books coming together to read six books this year and then discuss them. It was started and is moderated by the fabulous Amy of My Friend Amy fame.

Admittedly, this was a very tough book for me to get through. I had a difficult time getting engaged in the story or even caring about the characters. Had I not committed to reading it for this group I probably would not have finished. However, I can say that I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it and I’m proud of myself for slogging through when I badly wanted to give up at times.

One particular part of the story stood out to me as discussion-worthy. There is one section of the book in which people have been affected horrifically by radiation poisoning. They are so unbelievably damaged, so hurt, that they beg to be put out of their misery. There is one doctor who performs euthanasia on those who would prefer to die rather than suffer through their pain to their inevitable slow, agonizing deaths. Of course, there is also a priest involved who will not allow euthanasia to occur on his watch.

This stood out to me because I found myself agreeing with the doctor and getting mad at the priest. While I am a Christian, I come at things from a more secular viewpoint since I have only been following Jesus for a few years now. For most of my life, I believed in God in a sense but didn’t really understand what that meant and didn’t really care to follow Him. So when I read about people suffering so terribly, especially when they know for certain that they will die soon anyway – but slowly, and in agony – it makes perfect sense to me that if they request so, they should be put out of their misery when they ask. I have to believe that a good God, a perfect God, would not want His people to be in such unbearable pain. Why would He ever ask that of His followers? What good does that do, what purpose does it serve?

But then I remember – a life is a life is a life, and God does not condone the killing of any life, for any reason. He and He alone should be the decision maker as to who dies and when and under what circumstance. While I believe this to be true, I question its implications in cases such as the one presented in A Canticle for Leibowitz. I am left puzzled, trying to figure out what God really would prefer us to do in this particular situation. I don’t have the answer – I’m still inclined to go with my first thought on this one. How can He condone such suffering, especially when it comes to people who love Him with all their hearts? It doesn’t make any sense to me. But yes, killing is killing, no matter what the specifics are. There is no gray area here, at least according to His word. So I really don’t know.

That just goes to show you that even though I really didn’t enjoy this book, I got something out of it. And that is what makes the experience of reading so important.

Check out the other participants of the Faith and Fiction Roundtable:

Book Hooked BlogBooks and MoviesCrazy for BooksIgnorant HistorianLinus’s BlanketMy Friend AmyMy Random ThoughtsOne Person’s Journey Through a World of BooksRoving ReadsSemicolonThe 3R’s BlogTina’s Book ReviewsVictorious CafeWordlily

What Good is God by Philip Yancey

What Good Is God?What Good is God? In Search of a Faith That Matters by Philip Yancey
Published by FaithWorks, an imprint of Hachette

Journalist Philip Yancey has always been one to question certain aspects of the Christian faith. In What Good is God?, he seeks to determine how God works for those Christians dealing with difficult situations. In his quest to answer this fundamental question of faith, he visits many parts of the world including Virginia Tech soon after the massacre, the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, and a conference for former sex workers.

What Good is God? was the second selection for the Faith and Fiction Roundtable, the brainchild of Amy, in which a group of bloggers read and discuss a faith-based book and then post about our discussion and our feelings on said book. This particular book didn’t generate a ton of discussion, as it seemed that many of us didn’t much like the book. Personally I thought it had good points and bad but overall I enjoyed the experience of reading it and I found it to be a relatively meaningful discussion on the power of faith – and more specifically, faith in God – in difficult times.

The book was set up somewhat awkwardly, and most of us in the Roundtable agreed that it wasn’t the best format. Basically what Yancey did was talk about a place or people or experience for a chapter, and the next chapter would be a speech he gave in that particular situation/event/place. It felt like he was recycling previous works – republishing speeches he’d given already – and most of us didn’t like that. But most of us did agree that the chapters preceding the speeches were much better than the speeches themselves and most of us got a lot out of those chapters.

For me, I think the main question the book addressed was “Where is God when life gets painful?” rather than “What Good is God?” What the book reinforced for me is the fact that regardless of the circumstances, God is there. God shows His face through his Christians, through His missionaries, through His churches and the individual people who care enough to spread His word and His love throughout even the hardest hit parts of the world.

The other thing that I was reminded of, thanks mostly to our discussion, is the fact that Christianity doesn’t look the same for everyone, and that the way we practice and show our faith isn’t necessarily going to be the best fit for someone else. In places ravaged by disease, poverty, prejudice, and other realities of life, faith may need to be expressed and felt in different ways. A group of people doesn’t need to do Christianity our way for it to still be faith in and love for God. And God shows up, no matter the details of the faith – if you love and trust in Him, He is there, regardless of the specifics of your situation.

I can’t say that I found one concrete message to inspire me in this book, but throughout the book I felt inspired and lifted up by the faith of the people Yancey came into contact with. I think everyone needs a reminder sometimes that God is here, even when it hurts, even when it seems that He has abandoned us. And I think that’s a starting point for many people, and a good one too.

Please check out what the other participants thought of What Good is God?

Book Hooked Blog, Books and Movies, Crazy for Books, Ignorant Historian, Linus’s Blanket, My Friend Amy, My Random Thoughts, One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books, Roving Reads, Semicolon, The 3R’s Blog, Tina’s Book Reviews, Victorious Cafe, Wordlily

The 2011 Faith and Fiction Round Table (TSS)

FNFRT I am super excited to share with all of you the exciting project I get to be a part of this year.  Maybe you’ve heard of it (I participated a few times last year), it’s the Faith and Fiction Round Table, founded by none other than Amy of My Friend Amy.  This year we will be reading six faith-inspired books and discussing them.  Here’s the info for the books we’ll be reading, in case you’re interested in reading with us!

First up is Certain Women by Madeline L’Engle.  The discussion will be posted February 26th.

Next is What Good is God by Phillip Yancey, with discussion scheduled for April 30th.

After that, we’ll be discussing A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr, with discussion scheduled for June 11.

Next, Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker, which we’ll be discussing August 13th.

After that we will move onto A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, with the discussion scheduled for September 24th.

And last, we’ll be reading Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee and discussing it on November 12th.  (The cover/amazon link for this one are not out yet.)

I’m really excited to be a part of this, I think we have a great mix of books to read and discuss and with the great group of people we have we will surely be having some great discussions.  Oh, the people – hop on over to My Friend Amy’s blog right now to meet the other members of the Faith and Fiction Round Table, please!