Tuesday, October 01, 2013

"A Land Without Sin" -- A Book Review

I haven't been blogging much of late, as I've been trying to finish writing a new book with my friend Jennie Isbell.  Now that Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting A New Prayer Language is off at IVP, it's time to catch up.  And there's a lot to catch-up on -- new music, new books, new happenings!

First up is a a new book.  Paula Huston's novel A Land Without Sin.

Set in autumn 1993 in southern Mexico, the novel features Eva Kovic's search for her priest brother who has most likely aligned himself with revolutionary forces who are hiding and raiding from the   Lacandon jungle.  Eva is in her mid-thirties and is a seasoned photo-journalist traveling under the cover of being the photographer for Jan Bource, a Dutch Mayanist.

While that's the surface story, much more is going on -- just as in real life, these characters have layered stories, secrets, and are each on their own quest.  A quest often unknown or unrevealed to the others.  Evan and Stefan (the brother) have their family story, which is far from being one of sweetness and light.  Jan has his, which includes a teenage son and invalid English Quaker wife who is housebound in their Mexican village home. 

Then there are the characters of the dark jungle, the violent guerrilla warfare, and war going on in Eva's heart and mind.

Huston's story is well told and the characters are rich and fully developed.  The are not all lovable nor all villains.  They are real -- filled with mixed motives and hopes and fears.  And the darkness of the jungle draws tighter around them all as they traverse on their individual quests and are caught up in situations far beyond their control.

A Land Without Sin has been compared to Joseph Conrad's The Heart of Darkness (and the movie based on it Apocalypse Now), but I think it has much more of a Graham Greene feel to it than a Conrad.  I first fell in love with Greene's novels whilst taking Brit Lit in college.  And I still love reading them.  The reason this is more Greene than Conrad is the element of faith as more than a plot device.  Stefan's priesthood is more than a character marker, it's important to his actions -- and to Eva's wrestling with things of the spirit.  Including her own struggles with the power and glory.  The human factor is a major part of this novel and is its strength.

On a personal note, I am happy for the portrayal of Quakers as decent, religious folk who are engaged in the empowerment of the poor -- especially women.  And Huston's description of Quaker waiting worship is pretty spot on, despite her referring to it as Quaker meditation (which is a not what most Quakers would call it).

Now for a disclaimer.  Paula is a friend of mine.  So you may not think me a dispassionate reviewer.  Guilty.  I enjoyed her books (mostly non-fiction) though before I knew her.  She's a wonderful writer and thinker -- and I commend her work(s) to you.

-- Brent

Check back later this week for a guest blog post from Paula!

1 comment:

Photography Indonesia said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)