You’re an experienced Christian preacher, appearing on the conference circuit and on radio. You ‘came to faith’ at the age of seven. You’ve been happily married for several decades and you and your wife are very sad that your one son, Ollie, a stand-up comic, has lost his faith. So, what do you do when your faith slips away from you and you cannot carry on churning out glib nuggets about things which once seemed rock solid but have have lost their freshness and meaning. Moreover, you find yourself attracted to another woman and you have an affair.
You confess some of this to your son, hoping for a more sympathetic response from a member of the younger generation, but Ollie is disgusted and let down. He calls you a hypocrite because you cannot maintain the standards which you upheld to him, and which he rejected. You decide there is no alternative but to return home to your wife, and, painful as this will be, confess your unfaithfulness. But that night she dies in a road accident.
Through his life Ray Young (the main character) has been fascinated by rooks circling in flight at dusk, the beauty and grace of their movements offset by their raucous call. This has become an allegory for Ray’s feelings about God, the church and his life. ‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a Christian book, published by a Christian publisher, so the reader anticipates a certain course. Without giving away any spoilers, the Christian reader has to suspend his/her expectations as to the story arc. Richard Dawkins wouldn’t like it either, in case you’re wondering.
‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a work of one hundred per cent fiction, but this novel is written like an autobiographical account. Large tranches of, quite important, action are glossed over, in dialogue or in a few paragraphs of backstory whilst covering something else, including a pilgrimage to Santiago in Northern Spain. Indeed the plotline rambles in places, but this lends authenticity. In my church there is a picture of Jesus bearing a crown of thorns with a caption ‘Meek and mild? As if!’ and this is the tone of ‘Rooks at Dusk’. Uncomfortable truths, awkward questions, subjects not usually treated openly in Christian literature, are taken on with courage, excruciating transparency and honesty.
Having read a little about Chick Yuill the man from his website Anvilding and his emotional resignation letter from officership in the Salvation Army, I learn that Chick himself is a preacher like his protagonist. Chick”s faith in God and his marriage, however, remain firm. He has preached at Spring Harvest and Radio Two’s Good Morning Sunday. Included in ‘Rooks at Dusk’ is an insightful comparison between preaching and being a stand-up comic. Compulsory reading for all clergy and lay preachers, methinks!
I don’t know whether I’m supposed to be reviewing this one yet, as it’s not released yet. From 21 July (end of next week), you will be able to buy this book from Instant Apostle . I am reviewing this book in my role as a member of the Instant Apostle Facebook Reviewing Group.
‘Rooks at Dusk’ is a must for all committed Christians, for agnostics and atheists and everybody in between. Five whopping stars!