Top positive review
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A masterful story of love, beauty and spiritual insight
on July 8, 2001
A Severe Mercy is a masterfully crafted autobiography and the story of an intensely deep love relationship, a profound introspective on their path to finding God, and the utimate bereavement the author experiences as his thirty-something wife dies of a terminal illness.
Along the way, their paths cross with C.S. Lewis; personal correspondence with him peppers the book, as does a collection of superb poems written by Vanauken. It explores complex theological, philosophical and aesthetic issues with deep insight and profoundly sharp perspective. I can't recommend it highly enough, it's truly one if the best books I've ever read - a work of art which crosses many dimensions.
Practically speaking, A Severe Mercy explores a number of crucial life issues with breathtaking clarity. First, the second chapter, "The Shining Barrier" distills more insight into the true workings of a wonderful marriage relationship than a dozen garden-variety relationship books from the self-help section of a bookstore. Anyone who wants to understand why their romance has cooled off after five or ten or twenty years of marriage (including myself) could use this chapter alone as a manual for re-kindling the fire.
Secondly, it explores the nature of a difficult spiritual journey in a most articulate way - the emotional, philosophical, theological and personal implications of the claims of Jesus Christ. This book is not in any way a Bible-thumping promo for Christianity; rather it examines the claims of Christ and their implications from logical, historical, aesthetic and personal viewpoints -- in a way that no thinking person can easily dismiss.
I gave this book to friends of mine, a highly educated married professional couple, before they went on a camping trip. They were struggling mightily to reconcile Christianity with their modern worldview and the book was instrumental in helping them accomplish a breakthrough.
Third, it delves into the difficult interior world of a person who is bereft of the love of his life and who must feel the sorrow and loss and yet go on.
A Severe Mercy plumbs the depths of all of these issues via beautiful prose, expertly crafted perspective, and provocative poetry. Highly recommended.