Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: HarperOne, 2001
Price: $12.95

ISBN-10: 0060652950
ISBN-13: 978-0060652951

With each and every book I read by C.S. Lewis, I become an ever more admiring fan. While I cannot say this is my favorite of his works (for that spot, I reserve Mere Christianity, followed by A Grief Observed), it is as fascinating and insightful a ride as any of his. C. S. Lewis is exceptional in his ability to take the most complicated human issues and make them understandable.

Blending into a queu awaiting a bus ride without fully understanding to where or why (how many of us blend sheepishly with the masses this way?), the narrator, George, takes a fantastical ride through heaven and hell. Just two possible end points on this trip, and with that, Lewis makes it clear: as much as we try to rationalize and wiggle, there is no gray area in life, or, in this case, the after life. You choose. Black or white, good or evil.

With a cast of colorful characters, ghostly figures and helpful angels who only wish to give the undecided one final chance to decide, we ride along with those who, we soon realize, resemble everyone we know. Including you and me. The whiner and the complainer, the cheater and the liar, the rationalizer, the egotist, the shortchanger. Even the overly devoted mother, who, upon closer examination, clings to her son more to serve her own selfish needs than to let him go in a loving manner for his wellbeing is not the marytr she believes herself to be.

It is not in the big falls that we lose our way to heaven. It is, more often than not, in the petty details of our lives, all those grand intentions come to nothing, all those shortcomings and shortcuts taken, all those more challenging routes avoided, where we take wrong turns that will land us only in hell. A stern Father reminds us, "Your will be done," rather than His. And so, for all who did not trust in Him, but stubbornly held to their own willful ways, the bus has only one last stop.

As amusing as this little tale (novella) is to read, the message is heavy duty. If you don't recognize yourself in at least a few of these lost souls, look harder. And then give your future bus stop some careful thought...

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