by Jonathan Fanning
A friend and author asked if I would be interested in reading his latest book. He mentioned that it had something to do with C.S. Lewis - if not my all-time favorite writer, then certainly one of my top ten. Of course I would!
Unfortunately for you, the book won't be available until just after the New Year, but by the time this review is in print you may be able to find this very fine story on Amazon.
The premise is simple: take a man, a successful, driven business owner. Add his sister, married to his best friend who feels compelled to go and do his duty to his country, and never returns. Now, mix in a small boy of six. And finally, bring them all together around the uncle and nephew's discovery of the Narnia books - more accurately, the Uncle's introduction of Narnia to his young nephew, and what the ritual of reading them, with a few slightly uncanny episodes added just for the mystery of it all - and you have a touching, tender, thoughtful exploration of the meaning of life, relationships, purpose, and what we all can teach one another: sister and brother, husband and wife, child and adult, author and reader.
Jonathan, like his main character, Thomas, is an entrepreneur and a motivational speaker, so much of the story deal with themes that comprise his own professional life. But the story isn't his life; it is his interests and devotions delivered in a fictional tale that wanders through a man's struggle to find where he's meant to be when his successful and all-consuming business comes to a sudden halt; what his sister is trying to tell him when she asks him if he if he will - if he can - "listen." What his young nephew and he learn from their shared adventures in Narnia.
For anyone who doesn't know, Narnia is a world accessed through the wardrobe of a set of children waiting out WWII in their relative's home in the country. As they explore his mansion far away from the dangerous bombing of London, they find one day, playing hide and seek, that the back of the wardrobe in one of the lonely bedrooms leads to a mystic land where animals talk, where witches are real, and where children can become Kings and Queens once they discover the power within them to do the right thing. When I was about ten I found Lewis's Space Trilogy in the library and fell instantly in love. Later I learned about the Narnia books, and of course had to read them all, and eventually anything and everything Lewis wrote.
C.S. Lewis was a writer of great power and deep spirituality, who found clever and profound ways to bring his own religious convictions to readers of all ages, and to make sense of the mysteries of faith. But you needn't agree with his beliefs to enjoy his work or the overarching stories of The Good in mankind, and the constant struggle we engage in to understand our own foibles and failures, and listen to the voice of our best self when it speaks.
Fanning has accomplished something similar here: using Narnia as a point of departure, and the connection these children's books make between Thomas and his nephew, this book follows Thomas on his own voyage of self-discovery - and not without the added touches of magic that happen to our main characters as their tale unfolds.
Do yourself a favor and look for this book early in 2017 - it will be available on Amazon, and eventually as a book-on-tape. It will make for good reading over some long winter nights, and might inspire you to find a young one with whom you can share your own exploration of Narnia.
Update - Hi. It's been awhile since I just lost interest in this blog and ghosted everyone. I just wanted to let you all know that I am now on Goodreads and current...
8 months ago