This is not actually another book review – but a reflection provoked by Beckwood Brae, the first of a series by new Australia author, David H. Webb (High Way, 2008). David and I had contact through mutual interests on LibraryThing (you can see my and others’ reviews there) and I learned that his passion is to assist young people’s development toward emotional and spiritual maturity through the inspiriation and guidance of the Christian fantasy genre. With Tolkien, Lewis and the counselling philosophy of Larry Crabb in the background, but not dominating, David does a credible job of using this, his first book , to capture the imagination and weave connecting pathways between his powerful narrative style and the growing story of the young reader.
Some in my various circles have questioned the value of fiction used in this way, particularly as it has been translated in some instances to the big screen. Is it not some sort of escape from reality? And what value imagination when the cinema now does so much imagining for us? Well, we are discussing a book, not a film, and in my experience, whether by book or film, it is good narrative and story-telling that leads to deeper connections, insight and ultimate growth. Eugene Peterson speaks of one of the most important tasks of the church in its pastoral and missionary endeavour – practicing the art of story-making. This goes beyond mere story-telling. It is connecting the unique story of any individual to a story that has collective meaning. In these post modern times such collective stories or meta-narratives have to work hard to even suggest they have credibility – particularly the Christian story. Ironically, in many places, the warfare is being waged on propositional battle-fronts, where it is alleged that the very idea of God needs to be proved. But the pastoral art of story-making cuts deeper. There are personal and collective captivities and an Exodus and a promised land somewhere – even an exile, and the language of metaphor, fable, and fantasy are legitimate vehicles for releasing any and all of these stages of pilgrimage for further exploration.
I hope that David Webb and others like him continue to develop this genre.