A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed a book I enjoyed very much. It was THE CHAIR written by James L. Rubart. A copy of the review follows:
SOMETIMES A CHAIR IS NOT JUST A CHAIR, November 25, 2011
By Vicki Hinze
Corin Roscoe, an antiques store owner, is a man fighting fears relatable to us all: ones with family, with friends, with God. His days are haunted with harsh realities and his nights by dreams of horrific incidents endured. He reaches many crossroads in this book: does he hang onto fear or face it? Hang onto guilt or seek forgiveness? Deny the truth or accept it? And when life offers him a choice between the easy road or the high road–when the easy road will spare him further struggles–which does he choose?
Life is tough, the conflicts are easily imagined as our own, and the choices we make either lead us into deeper trouble or shine a light on a path of redemption and restoration. The choice, as Corin learns, is ours to make. Over and again throughout our lives.
James L. Rubart plays fair with the reader, portrays a realistic view of anti-faith and expresses an intriguing, thought-provoking glimpse at God’s mysterious ways of redemption. Sometimes a chair is not just a chair. Sometimes it’s a path to discovery, forgiveness, healing, and restoration.
That’s the review. What I didn’t know then and couldn’t have known then is that thoughts of the story would linger with me. They are still, which is why I’m writing this post on this book today. I’ve read at least three other books since then, but something in this one resonated. I’d missed something important.
With that thought in mind, I sat down in a quiet room and got still. Then I thought about the story not from the prospective of the story, but from a writer’s perspective. Intent came to mind, and stayed. More specifically, the writer’s intent, or purpose in writing the book.
I realized then what I’d failed to translate, and it’s significant. Just as a chair isn’t always “just” a chair in the novel, for those of us who read, sometimes books aren’t just books. Particularly if it’s one written for purpose.
The intent of sharing something significant is a worthy purpose for a writer, and when that purpose focuses on faith it’s all the more important. I firmly believe that a reader can’t get out of a book something that a writer doesn’t first put in a book. And so the logical deduction then becomes a matter of what we write.
For a purpose writer, a book is never just a book. While it might not hold the mystical aspects of the chair in the novel, if the work is faith-based, faith-centered, then in a very real way, it holds the mystical aspects of a relationship with God.
That doesn’t mean, as Rubart demonstrated aptly, that a book has to be over the top religious. It doesn’t mean that a book has to be peopled with characters who are all Christians or who lack doubts and never suffer spiritual crises. We all suffer them.
We might write books that aren’t classified as Christian fiction. We might write books peppered with language and activity that we don’t consider fitting for believers. But if those are the only people we touch, then aren’t we attempting to heal those who are not sick? And if that’s the case, then who’s tending to the ill?
Isn’t that like giving a book to a man who cannot read? I’m not advocating that we should veer away from Christians in Christian fiction. I’m saying that there is a purpose and a place for books with Christian characters and also characters who are not Christians–the non-believers, the doubters, the people in spiritual crisis who need help but who are so lost they don’t even know what they need. There is purpose in those books, and let’s be honest, those who might benefit from them aren’t apt to be ones cruising through the inspirational section in a bookstore.
A book can be more than a book. It can be a beacon that lights a dark path and shows another the way out of the darkness. As well as adventures and all the typical reasons we read, aren’t we at times trying to make sense of something in our own corner of the world? And if we write with purpose, frankly and honestly, then aren’t we giving our best to infuse that book with the purpose for which we’re writing it? And by doing so, aren’t we giving our best to put some specific purpose in it that a reader can get out?
Years ago, I was asked why I invested so much time in new writers? Teaching, mentoring, encouraging. The answer was because I didn’t have that when I started and I know how much it would have meant to me. Instead, I learned hard knocks, until finally a mentor came along and others followed. I realized later that I get more from teaching and mentoring than I ever give. And now–continuing to think aloud here–I see the same is true in the books.
As in James L. Rubart’s novel where a chair is not just a chair, a book written for spiritual purpose is not just a book. When writing it, we feel it takes all–everything we have and then some. But after it’s done, often a good while after, we see that it gave more than it took. To the author who wrote it, and to the readers who connect with it.
Not all readers will connect to any one book. We’d all have to be on the same spiritual journey and at the same juncture at the same time for that to happen. But those who need what the book has to offer will get it. To them, the book will not be just a book, but a doorway to spiritual exploration or resolution.
Grasping this, I feel both intimidated and blessed. Well, almost intimidated. Okay, I don’t feel intimidated, but I would be if I didn’t know for fact that what God wants in a book, He’ll put in it. Writing with purpose assures it. So I guess I’m actually feeling grateful and blessed.
Jim, I’m glad your book wasn’t just a book. It made me think, as you can see, and while I wouldn’t swear this post reads coherent to anyone else, it makes perfect sense to me.