Till We Have Faces. I'm only about halfway through it, and it's quite lovely--a leisurely written story of the princess of a mediocre country whose beloved younger sister is given in sacrifice to their God, and who tries to rescue her. The first third or so of the book was an interesting story, and very much a character study. But then the plot really got underway, and the two sisters are having a long conversation about gods that is such a Christian parable that it almost ceases to function as fiction.
Actually, I'm not sure if that's true. I think it feels heavy handed, but I also thing Lewis is quite an expert at exploring the issues surrounding religious faith in a way that is generous to the agnostic. He's not antagonistic, as I find so many other apologists to be. But you can tell that's because he really feels like he's going to win you over. The girl in the story (I can't remember her name, because it's strange and she's a first person narrator; the sacrificed sister is Psyche) clearly doesn't want to believe, and even as she's making very reasonable arguments (I think my sister is crazy because she says we're sitting inside when we're clearly outdoors getting rained on), it's clear that I'm supposed to find her suspect because of her lack of faith (in her sister's claim that no, really, we're indoors and dry as a bone). And then her arguments that really, if the gods want us to believe things, they should make them less contradictory with the evidence of our senses--insert C.S. Lewis eye roll. But, I'm sorry, that makes total sense to me as an argument. You can't dismiss the evidence of my senses as a spurious argument.
I don't want to argue religion with anyone--I am without any sort of conviction. And I really enjoy reading more explicit religious discussion, because I want to home in on the place where I part company from believers, because I really can't find it for myself; I only know we're on different paths. But I do hope that the book becomes less of a parable and goes back to being more of a story.
I also want to put in a plug here for the YA novel Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale. Hale has apparently written Goose Girl, which a bunch of people I know have raved about, as well as a bunch of other things. I just found her, and I can say that I enjoyed Princess Academy a lot. I thought it dealt very well with the main character being strongly of two minds, and really not knowing which way to go.
Okay, I'm off to ring in the new year. Happy 2008, everyone!
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