Faith and Spirituality
I meant to post this yesterday in honor of the birthdays of both C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle, but I guess it’s going to have to be a bit belated. It’s well-known that Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia are steeped in spirituality and full of Christian parallels, from the creation of Narnia itself in The Magician’s Nephew to sacrificial love in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and L’Engle’s books are all spiritual and faith-based to varying degrees, from the Noah’s ark story in Many Waters to the many varieties of angels throughout the Time Quintet. Obviously, I could fill this whole list with books by Lewis and L’Engle, so I’m going to allow only one entry for each before moving on to different authors. So, here is a list of books which are infused with spirituality and deal with issues of faith in a variety of ways.
1. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – This is the most well-known of the Narnia books, and the one I’ve personally read the most (Embarrassing admission: I haven’t actually read all of them yet. I’m a little afraid to read the last few.). While the parallels are a bit heavy-handed at times, there will always be a special place in my heart for the story of the Pevensie children’s first journey to Narnia and their quest to defeat the White Witch and restore Aslan to power. I also have great affection for the whole Saving Power of Love thing.
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Speaking of the Saving Power of Love…. This is a true classic, the book that introduces the fabulous Murry family, particularly Meg and Charles Wallace as they travel across time and space to rescue their father, accompanied by the wonderful Calvin O’Keefe and three strange women, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who. Oh dear, and now I’ve gone paging through it and I’m just about ready to start reading it again. Let’s move on before I get any further.
3. Armageddon Summer by Bruce Coville and Jane Yolen – I already mentioned this one in my list of realistic fiction books, but it belongs here without a doubt. Jed and Marina are each dragged along to a mountaintop retreat by their respective parents, who are followers of a preacher convinced that the end of the world is coming soon and only the select few gathered on the mountain will be saved. The two teens are forced to examine their own beliefs as the foretold Armageddon approaches and conflicts rise.
4. The Quest for the Fair Unknown by Gerald Morris – The eighth volume in Morris’ Squire’s Tales series based on Arthurian legend, this book tells the story of a young man named Beaufils who has lived a sheltered life in a forest until his mother dies and he travels to King Arthur’s court, just as the great quest for the Holy Grail is beginning. As humorous and adventurous as the rest of the series, this one is especially full of spiritual rumination, particularly when it comes to Beaufils’ observations of the world.
5. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare – Daniel is determined to avenge his father’s crucifixion by driving the Romans from Israel and he joins a band of outlaws hoping to accomplish just that. He is consumed by hatred and anger, until the day he meets Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings begin to turn Daniel’s heart toward a more loving path. Strictly historical fiction, this book offers a unique perspective on the story of Jesus.
6. Hole in the Sky by Pete Hautman – This is a rather unique post-apocalyptic story, which takes place in a near-future world in which a virus has killed off most of the human race. Even those who survived have been severely affected, like Ceej’s sister Harryette, who lost all of her hair and her ability to speak. While running from the dangerous, cult-like Kinkas, Ceej and his friend Tim meet a Hopi girl named Bella, whose tales of a new world give Ceej hope.
7. The Shell House by Linda Newbery – The most interesting thing about this book is the way it weaves together past and present. Greg is dealing with issues of faith and of his own sexuality and he becomes fascinated by the story of Edmund, a young soldier from World War I. We also get chapters from Edmund’s perspective, as he falls in love with another soldier, Alex, and his struggle with identity mirrors Greg’s. Edmund’s story is somewhat more compelling than Greg’s, but it’s an interesting and unique read nonetheless.
8. Keeper of the Universe by Louise Lawrence – This one is strange and a bit obscure. Christopher is transported away from Earth and held captive along with two other young people from alien worlds. They learn about each other’s lives and cultures as they try to determine the reason for their captivity. Admittedly, this one is a bit light on plot and heavy on philosophy, which is generally a big no-no, but even so, I loved the snatches of beautiful language and found the discussions of free will fascinating.