William Loewen has written a theological book disguised as a novel. This makes it challenging to classify, but it also opens new possibilities for how it can be used. I would recommend this book for a book club or other group discussion, especially for young adults who are exploring their own spirituality.
Loewen, pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church in Calgary, provides an interesting and believable story with engaging characters. Lydia Phillips, the main character, is given the task of compiling a Christian self-help book, forcing her to ask impor-tant questions about Christian faith. Her problematical work environment forces her to face deep questions about her vocation. Meanwhile, the old friend she has recruited to help her with the book project brings his own complicated relationships into the picture. Those who enjoy something of a love interest in their stories won’t be disappointed.
Although the writing may not be as polished as that of a seasoned author who submits to a rigorous editing process, Loewen’s book is a compelling read. The story carries itself, even while it begs to be discussed along the way. Loewen provides some discussion questions in the back and indicates that conversation was his intention. He wants to make theological discussion more accessible, especially for young adults.
As I was reading, I found it slightly ironic that a self-published book with a style that had some rough spots was describing the making of a book that was to be thoroughly edited and revised by a professional publishing company. The book and its cover look quite professional except for the fact that the page margins are very narrow. I found the long text lines a bit distracting. There were only one or two places where I wanted to quibble with the editing.
The strength of this book is in the everyday-life questions it raises in the midst of the story. Readers are pushed to explore their own views about the Christian message and how it plays out in the church. It raises questions about a wide variety of issues, including feminism, intimate relationships, issues in the work environment, respect for others, the meaning of love, and even death and funerals.
Although the story might not win a prize for excellence in literature, Loewen has provided a good resource for promoting discussion about things we face in our lives every day. Although he never mentions Mennonites, he writes from an Anabaptist perspective and invites readers to sincerely think about what it means to follow Jesus.
A Pie Plate Pilgrimage is available in paperback or Kindle versions at amazon.ca.
--Posted Oct. 22, 2014