The Book Club
August 12, 2013Several years ago I was part of a book club of clergy women and other women from various churches in the District, and the Conference Staff. From the beginning it was decided that we would read fiction. Fiction, truthfully, is not my go-to read. I mostly read non-fiction, theology, sociology, even mathematics and physics. (Sorry, I am boring.) I had to force myself to read fiction. So I read books like My Sister’s Keeper, The Help, Middlesex (not fiction, but group approved) and I began to see the importance of connecting to culture and humanity, the value of being part of the world in a way good fiction brings us into. One of the disciplines of this new insight borne of my book club experience is that every year I make a trip to Quail Ridge Books to buy at least a few of the Freshmen reads of the year. Universities in the area require a read from their freshmen, a read that will spur thought and conversation among those who are just beginning their baccalaureate educations. Books our college freshmen are required to read are amazing! What Happened on the Way to War has been on the list for more than one year. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was on the list for 2012. The story of HeLa cells is all over the news even today! The book I have begun to read is Let the Great World Spin, which is the Duke Freshman read for 2013. (Sorry, again. I go to Duke first.) I have just started reading today. There is a paragraph on page 20, in the reverie of my afternoon, just as I have sat down to read… Corrigan is remembered by his brother who is telling the story, “Corrigan told me once that Christ was quite easy to understand. He went where he was supposed to go. He stayed where he was needed. He took little or nothing along…. What Corrigan needed, wanted was a totally believable God, one you could find in the grime of the everyday. The comfort he got from the hard, cold truth – the filth, the war, the poverty, was that life could be capable of small beauties.” Corrigan’s brother concludes that he stands amazed and confounded that Corrigan is about seeking light in darkness, triumph in tragedy, “optimism against all evidence.” This work of fiction, that hundreds of Duke Freshmen 2013 are required to read seems to be leading to something important for them to discuss and reflect on. This story seems to be pointing to THE STORY: Salvation, Redemption, Healing, Wholeness. Each chapter takes interesting twists and turns. I feel like I am turning a kaleidoscope and don’t yet know the design I will end up with. Same colors, different shapes and arrangements. The story is unfolding with surprise, shock, complexity. The great world spins indeed. We are people of a story, not fiction, but emerging truth. God in Christ is Light in Darkness, Wholeness in brokenness, Healing in hurt, and Beauty in that which is shameful and ugly around us. I have not quite finished this book, but I am hopeful that this work of fiction will point to something profound and true. There are people among us who point us to goodness, righteousness, truth that is Christ. There are people who do the right thing. And forgiveness for those who don’t. I have not yet figured who the hero in the story is. Perhaps it is the storyteller, the one who keeps at the telling. I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities of everyday life from a writer of fiction. How does right prevail? Complacency and over-confidence in answers do not strengthen faith in a spinning world. Who would think a work of fiction would prod my thought so much. Perhaps my life and my faith get rigid and stale in my non-fiction-ness. I am thankful for the shake-up. It's renewing.