I have had the Book of Jotham on my list of books to read for sometime, but there are so many books and so few dollars that I had not gotten around to it. Then I became made aware that the author of the book, Arthur Powers, was going to read and review Tobit’s Dog for the Catholic Fiction website.
I like to review books I read, but try to avoid as best I can any sense of “tit for tat” reviewing. It works out however, that the review is evidently written, but not yet published. So I knew the time to strike on The Book of Jotham was now. My wife, Sherri, has our prime account on amazon, so she downloaded it for me under their borrowing plan onto her original kindle so I could read it (she’s all fancy Fire now!).
This is not a long book. I actually read it in less than three hours. To me, it isn’t really even a novel so much as a long, beautifully crafted prose poem. Do not let that scare you away from reading this book. It is a smooth, organic read. The narrative reminded me a bit of John Gardner’s Grendel, but without being the least bit derivative.
Often we will describe a book as “hard to put down”, in this case I would say it is “easy to keep up.” There is scant reliance on subtle manipulation of chapters as used by so many authors (myself included) to break the short story-like arc of each chapter that make a convenient place to stop reading for awhile. No cliff hanger chapters to seduce you into the next chapter and bind your interest. No, this is like being a leaf on a smooth, irresistible current of water.
I suffered from a bit of in-ordinate pride when I quickly realized that, in a sense, we are Jotham. An observation to which author admits in an afterword: yet, this is no simple allegory. The Book of Jotham works on too many levels for that. It also expresses the essence of the often talked about “personal relationship with Jesus Christ’ without losing sight of the veiled power of the divine. It is also a bittersweet hymn to those among us who are physically and mentally challenged.
Read this book. If you have amazon prime borrow it. That costs you nothing and puts a few bucks in the authors bank account. In my case, this is a book I will want to own in the paper and ink version (still the most beloved method of reading for me, with its full range of the senses). It may have to wait until my bank account has a few more of the monetary version of Star Trek’s expendable crew persons, or I may slip it onto a birthday or Christmas wish list, but I’m going to want a personal, old school version of it sooner rather than later.
Thinking upon this further, I think in the character of Jotham we can see elements of Karl Rahner’s Anonymous Christian notion. I do not know if the author meant for that to be the case, but we can see how Jotham responds to grace with a spiritual instinct rather than an interior intellectual dialog. There are obvious impediments to his intellectual capacity to understand, but his heart knows.