Thursday, May 15, 2014

Book Review: Tobit's Dog

Written by Michael Nicholas Richard and published by Ignatius Press, Tobit's Dog is a beautifully written book that transports the book of Tobit from Biblical days to more modern times.  Rather than a Jewish family oppressed by the Assyrians in ancient times, Richard gives us a black Catholic family living in a Great Depression south oppressed by white Protestants. I confess that my initial response to the book's opening pages was dismay.  Was this going to be yet another thinly veiled attempt to castigate the white race for sins committed by their forefathers, only this time wrapped in the cloak of the Bible and the Church? I am happy to say that I did not find it to be that way.  Yes, there were examples of prejudice shown to the black people but that would be expected in the Great Depression era south.  However, there were also plenty of examples of white men stepping up to do the right thing at great personal risk and treating the blacks around them with equal dignity.

It is not another story about white men rescuing oppressed blacks, either.  There is no white savior here. The whites in the book do help, but the heroes are clearly Tobit and his family.  It is quite often Tobit or Tobit's son, Tobias, who come to the rescue of white and black alike, something I think readers will appreciate.  God is at work, but God has all colors and none as becomes clear in the pages.

I found myself unexpectedly drawn in to the book, rooting for the characters as they face up to their adversities and enjoying the unique way the author chose to present this tale.  One thing I especially enjoyed about the story is that although there are characters who commit evil acts in this book, none of them are written off or presented as all bad. True to human nature, they have motivations and reasons behind their actions, misguided though they may be. It makes it easier to believe that these are real characters living in a real world.

I think that anyone who has struggled with maintaining their faith and hope in the midst of troubled times will get a lot out of reading this book.  Several different characters are presented who each handle it in their own way, and the author doesn't shy away from the doubts that can creep in when we're confronted with the imperfections of the world.  He doesn't try to convert every non-Catholic character that he presents to his readers, and he doesn't try to whitewash the characters of their humanity.  It's good fiction, clearly presented, and should be easy to follow.  I read it in about 3 hours, but slower readers should still be able to complete it in a couple of days.

Popular Posts