I was reading this short book by C.S. Lewis at a swim meet a week ago. Imagine my surprise when I was approached by three different people who had read it and asked if I was liking it! That’s pretty unusual for southeast Arkansas – or perhaps anywhere, I would think.
Mere Christianity and the Narnia Chronicles were the only Lewis books I’d read prior to the Great Divorce, and I was a little nervous about this one. I’ve heard nothing about it, for one (that’s why I was so shocked when approached about it at the swim meet). Second, I just didn’t want to be disappointed.
It took me a few pages to “get into” the book, simply because I had no idea what it was about. I told a friend I was reading it and quickly qualified it by saying that Carolyn and I were fine.
It ends up that it’s an imaginative short story about a man’s journey – on a bus of all things – from a dreary city to an alarmingly bright wilderness. The man travels with some less than amiable companions, and in the course of the book, he has several conversations with his travel mates and the occupants of the strange land he finds himself in.
What’s so interesting about the story is that you soon realize that he is on the outskirts of heaven – not quite in. The conversations that he has and overhears all entail the different arguments and objections that people have for entering heaven – namely that it requires surrender and acceptance of joy from the Creator.
You’ll recognize some arguments in this book as being those you’ve either heard from atheists, “good” people, or those who can’t turn loose of addictions to experience real life.
Lewis has one conversation about the discovery of true life go like this:
I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in ‘the high countries.’
It’s a great book, full of some profound thoughts amidst the fictional conversations. I would not recommend it as your first Lewis book. Go with MC or the Narnia books first. But if you enjoy those, then this is a great read.