The Grace of Guilt by Gareth Young

In a town dominated by an oppressive, judgmental church, a girl pregnant by rape, a homosexual boy, and an out-of-touch family man become united by a violent act.

I think The Grace of Guilt is aiming to be The Shack only with enough plot for at least three books. At first, I thought, “This person really hates Christianity.” The so-called Christian characters were so, so, so awful–prejudiced, hateful, and hypocritical. And then the savior-figure, an enigmatic hermit named Sam, just went around spewing pseudo-Eckhart Tolle nonsense about feeling God within you. I really got upset when he said he could never enjoy heaven so long as there was anyone left in hell for him to rescue. The arrogance of that statement–assuming that Christ’s work of salvation was insufficient and casting aspersions on the holiness of the God who punishes sin–really rubbed me the wrong way. At that point I basically assumed that this was a secular book.

But then the book ends with a key character preaching the gospel message, so I’m guessing that this author really is a believer. He doesn’t articulate his theology very clearly, not that I think that it’s the place of fiction to make those kinds of arguments. Either way, his mystical view of the Christian life is not one that I subscribe to, true-hearted Reformed woman that I am.

Even if I were to agree with his theology completely, I would still take issue with the plotting of the book. There’s so much going on and it’s all given the same level of dramatic power. Young doesn’t take the time to build suspense or tension–he just gives us everything at full voice starting at page one. His characters don’t have the kind of shading and nuance that I really need in order to care.

As a reader, I love that there are so many inexpensive books available for the Kindle. I’m growing more and more fascinated by the possibilities of e-publishing. Because of the growing democratization of content creation, I think it’s important that we remember to keep the quality bar high. So many e-books don’t have the benefit of an editor to polish them, something that The Grace of Guilt could have really used. The onus is on the writers themselves to study the craft of prose and story creation, and not to be hasty when putting a book out there. As an old roommate of mine used to say, “If you do it and it’s done, that’s good. If you do it and it’s good, that’s better.”

Many thanks to Dog Ear Publishing for the review copy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *