Just over a week ago I wrote a review of The Problem of Pain, one of Lewis’ early works, in which I tried (and failed) to come to terms with Lewis’ notion that pain is an expression of divine love and an instrument of God’s to shape humans into more complex beings.
As some of my BL friends have aptly pointed out, Lewis wrote The Problem of Pain from a theoretical and rather detached point of view. The Problem of Pain does (of course) not reflect on the profound personal experience he was to have years later and which gave birth to his book A Grief Observed.
A Grief Observed originated as a collection of journals which Lewis wrote after his wife passed away from cancer and which he used to help him cope with his loss. I would not go so far as to say he was trying to make sense of his loss because A Grief Observed clearly portrays a man who struggles with the notion that there is a purpose to loss, to pain, to suffering. And this is where A Grief Observed becomes so much more important than The Problem of Pain – Lewis, the professor, no longer claims to know all the answers. However, Lewis, the man, dares to challenge his convictions, his longstanding ideas, and ultimately his faith, in search of a way of coping with his own grief on very real – non-hypothetical – terms.
There is so much more I want to write about A Grief Observed, but nothing I can type is an adequate reflection of the sheer emotional and intellectual challenge this book was to me. When I say emotional challenge I do not compare it to the cheesy purposely-moving-to-tears gimmicky works of some other authors. A Grief Observed is an utterly frank, unpretentious, account of a man who is in pain, and it is the frankness and helplessness experienced by him – like by many others of us in – that, even though it may not give a purpose to pain itself, gives a great deal of meaning to book. Not in the sense of sympathy with Lewis, but as a proof of the bond of our shared humanity.
After all, as William Nicholson puts it so elegantly in his bio-pic about C.S. Lewis: “We read to know that we are not alone.”
5* (out of 5*)