I haven’t read anything quite like this book before. Part sci-fi, part adventure, and completely humanistic, The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber is original and very addicting (I pulled quite the few all-nighters on this one.)
It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter. Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.
While I was reading this I had a sense of foreboding, which is I partly I guess what kept me reading until the wee hours of the AM, however, that feeling of foreboding was unfounded. I guess I kept looking for some big revelation or some monumental event but it never happened or was too subtle to notice.
The characters here are all well thought out and I got to know them as their lives unfolded and that is what also what kept me reading. Peter becomes so absorbed in his teachings to the Oasans that he doesn’t take care of himself or his wife’s feelings of aloneness. I liked that Peter quotes from the bible and preaches; I took it as lessons I hadn’t had before.
I wish there had been another few pages to finalize what happens in the end and at close to 500 pages, a few more wouldn’t have hurt. In fact, I think it would have lead to a more satisfying ending. As much as I found this different world and their inhabitants intriguing; I wanted to know more of what was going on with home and the world we know and why.
I’m a sucker for great literature but hate untidy endings so after finishing “The Book of Strange New Things” I was a bit conflicted. The prose is beautiful and mundane. It gets inner monologue. Gosh, there is so much!
It’s a book about beginnings and endings. But it’s also a book about faith.
It’s a book about marriage. But it’s also a book about friendship.
It’s a book about redemption. It’s a book about broken people. It’s the beginning and the end.
Does this sound confusing? It isn’t. It flows beautifully. It is all of those things together and more. It’s a gorgeous story. It’s beautiful and not easily defined. And I whole heartedly recommend reading it. More than once. Because it’s one of those readings that unfurls. And those are the very best kind in my opinion 🙂
*I received an advanced copy of The Book of Strange New Things from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.