Title: The Way
Author: Kristen Wolf
Publication Date: July 2011
Source: FSB Associates for review
The Way envisions a new beginning for Christianity through the portrayal of Jesus as a woman. Anna's masculine appearance as a child causes her no end of hurt as the other children make fun of her and her father despairs that he has no son. The loss of an infant son and then the death of his wife lead Anna's father to disguise her as a boy and sell her to shepherds so he will be rid of her. For Anna this is the beginning of an unimaginable journey as she must first hide her femaleness and then learn to embrace it when she reaches what she thinks is her final destination. Her time as a shepherd and her time among the Sisters learning The Way prepare her for a larger role in the spiritual conflict taking place outside the caves she thinks of as home.
Sometimes you are looking for a book that will just take you away from your life. A book that lets your imagination run wild and entertains or relaxes you. The Way is not one of those books. The Way challenges you to think beyond what you have learned of Christianity. To expand your vision beyond yourself and your family and to remember how all things in the world are connected. Wolf takes some of the traditional Bible stories of Jesus and gives them new life as she shares them in a different context. The Way does not diminish Christianity but instead adds another layer of thought that expands it to include both Mother and Father in nourishing roles for all people.
Wolf writes in a straightforward manner that is both stark and beautiful at the same time. She matches her writing to each scene with scenes of the desert and scenes of the caves flowing just a bit differently. This enhances the reading experience as I was able to get a great sense of what Anna was feeling and experiencing through the changes in the writing. The shifts in name from Anna to Jesus and back again were so complete that it was possible in sections of the story to forget that the character is actually female. Anna must completely abandon herself into her male role and Wolf writes this absolutely convincingly and with total conviction.
It is incredibly important to remember when reading The Way that it is a work of fiction. While Wolf did research lesser known aspects of Christianity for background, this is her story and her vision. I think Wolf took a great risk in writing a story that could be so controversial for her first novel but she pulls it off wonderfully. I can see The Way being discussed in college religion courses with the potential for strong opinions on all sides of a debate. The Way does not allow you to read with complacency but forces you to think beyond the traditional Bible stories you may have learned as a child.
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