It seems I’m going to read Michael O’Brien’s Children of the Last Days series completely out of order. But that also seems to be fine as so far each of the books has stood on its own. A Cry of Stone only seems to connect incidentally as far as characters go, though thematically it’s of a piece with the rest of the series.
So far this is my favorite novel in the series. Actually, it may well be the best book I’ve read all year. Though it’s almost 900 pages, I couldn’t put it down and read it straight through in about three days. It’s a rich story and a compelling character. Makes me wonder why Father Elijah is O’Brien’s best-known work. I think this one is far deeper. Though it’s been a while since I read Father Elijah… I’m going to have to go back and re-read it to really understand how it fits in with the rest of the series.
Anyway, back to A Cry of Stone….The novel’s heroine, Rose Wabos is a Native American from northern Ontario, an artist, a visionary, a mystic, a cripple. She struggles both with extreme poverty and with the loss of everyone she loves as well as with a crooked spine. But Rose is a master of offering up her sufferings for others and though she never becomes a mother, she has many spiritual children.
Rose also struggles to develop her own artistic style and language in a world which is determined to pigeonhole her as a native artist but which rejects her Christian faith. The novel is colored by Rose’s rich interior life. Although it is primarily a realist narrative, it full of the symbolic language that she develops in her paintings and at times it becomes much more impressionist and symbolist. it is a fascinating critique of the modern art world and yet offers hope that Christian artist’s may still make a difference even if they are not recognized by the establishment.
The heart of the novel, however, is an extended meditation on poverty of spirit. Rose’s physical poverty is almost incidental in comparison to her growing spiritual poverty. Although she never completely loses faith, she does walk a very dark path. Denied entrance into religious life, stripped of all consolations of friends and family and fame, as well as of spiritual consolations, still she clings all the harder to Christ, who she calls “The Beating Heart.”
I feel like any words I can offer are inadequate, so I’ll just say: read the book.
My comments on other books in the series:
Evidently I didn’t write any comments after reading Father Elijah. Odd.