The Book of the Shepherd by Joann Davis
Read: as a review copy from The Ooze Viral Bloggers (HarperStudio, 208 pages)
Rating: 4 out of 10 (finished 2/15/10)
Synopsis: Set in a mythical time, in an unnamed land, The Book of the Shepherd tells the tale of a shepherd, Joshua, who is troubled by the harsh code of “an eye for an eye” that governs his world. Called by a dream, the shepherd sets off on a journey to find “the new way.”Accompanied by Elizabeth, a former slave who is kind and generous, and David, a boy who must learn to walk in new shoes, the shepherd knows that “an age of miracles” will come when the new way is found. But the journey is not without incident. En route to a cave near the Great Inland Sea, the travelers meet a cast of extraordinary characters, including the Storyteller, the Apothecary, the Blind Man, and the Stranger. Each imparts an important lesson that pushes the travelers toward their destiny. At the cave, Joshua must see if he can bring forth secrets long buried. But he, Elizabeth, and David will also discover that sometimes what we have been searching for has been inside us all along.
Overall Impression: I really wanted to like this one. It had the sort of spare, poetic language that I’m loving lately, and it came from the Ooze — and usually I enjoy the books I get from them. Let’s begin with the writing. Like some of the other books I’ve read lately, the writing is very simple, but it reached the level of elegance only a handful of times. Mostly it just felt…simple. The chapters were short and I read it in one sitting (not a bad thing). It read like a fable. But it didn’t have the whimsical element that most fables have, and I found that a disappointment.
Now the content. It feels Christian. Christian names (Joshua, David, Elizabeth) and Christian icons (shepherd, slave, a “new way”). But upon closer inspection, we find that it really isn’t. It’s a combination of random sources — the Bible, new age thought, Gandhi, Francis of Assisi, Obama campaign slogans, and I’m not sure what else. Davis lists her inspiration as The Golden Compass (strongly anti-Bible) and the Gnostic gospels. Not that the moral of the story — basically, love should triumph over justice, and you should be the change you want to see in the world — is a bad moral. It’s one that everyone should strive for, and one that I try to apply to my own life. But as a Christian, lines like this rubbed me the wrong way: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.” I guess it was more my own biases going into it. I’m not sure how non-Christians would read it — it could be that I was expecting something different, and was surprised by what I read.
Pros: Sometimes the language was very beautiful, it had a good moral, and the design of the book was lovely (especially the block print chapter headers).
Cons: Because of the names and the themes, I thought it was a Christian book. I almost felt like I’d been lied to (that’s more dramatic than it probably is, but I can’t think of any other way to say it).
Other books I’ve read by Joann Davis: none
Other blogger reviews: none (if you’ve reviewed this, let me know! I’ll link to you here.)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the Ooze Viral Bloggers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”