Thursday, July 31, 2008


A Spot of Bother
by Mark Haddon

Am not sure I'm ready to write - with the exception of her memorial sermon, I have had a bit of writer's block since KB's unexpected death. I guess maybe the way back in is to just do it and hope that the words come. Maybe the exercise in itself will be therapeutic.

If you liked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, this is the same author. It's a quirky little book that compassionately (and even humorously) depicts the journey of a man falling into some unspecific mental illness (some kind of panic or delusional disorder, apparently). The Hall family is a little bit screwball, but no more so than many of us if we are really honest about the craziness that goes on in family dynamics. Neither George's wife or his children really know what to do with the bizarre symptoms that George begins to have, but in an odd way their concern for husband/father draws the uneasy group together in unexpected ways. When the story comes to a conclusion, we do not have the sense that all the problems are over "and they lived happily ever after" (does that ever really happen, truly?). We do, however, get a sense of renewed commitment on each family member's part to be present to one another and work through the difficult times. That commitment in itself is gratifying.

Has anyone out there read this? If so, what did you think of the character Ray? I loved how the whole Hall family felt like he was such an inappropriate choice of mate for Katie but then he emerged as the most stable brick in the pile! Definitely a case where we should not judge a book by the cover (if you will forgive the metaphor), although we often do.

One thing that troubled me about the Hall family is their uniform contempt for matters of faith and religion. I realize that the conduct of the church for the past two millenia has been tainted by sin and self-interest (as is the conduct of any individual, community, or institution). This middle-class British family, however, seems contemptuous and hostile to any kind of faith or belief in something that cannot be empirically proven. I fear that this mindset is becoming more prevalent in our society as well. E. and I have certainly run into people who think our line of work is kind of quaint, but they have no idea how we actually spend our time or what aspects of our work we believe are the most important or valuable. What has caused this dismissal of faith and the spiritual life on the part of so many people, when other people are desperately seeking some type of connection with each other and with the Divine? I am aware of all the cultural factors that play into the equation, but wonder how established faith traditions can own up to our mistakes and discover new ways to be in relationship with people, without looking defensive or like we are in survival mode. Any spiritual or relational shift we make is going to backfire if we look like we are only making such a shift to save ourselves.

Well, that's maybe a bit of a digression from the book, but it's what the book made me consider.

Reverent Reader


At 7/31/08, 6:48 PM , Blogger TET said...

Sara and I loved this book and Curious Incident. Glad you've returned to the blogosphere!

At 7/31/08, 7:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Curiously," I picked up A Spot of Bother on the recommendation of Louise, a Delaware friend and regular reader of your blog. I hated it. Couldn't get out of the first chapter. Later on, I tried The Curious Incident and did like it. I found it a moving portrayal of the challenges facing people with autism/Aspergers, not to mention forgiveness and redemption.

Steve C.


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