Whilst the proverb 'confession is good for the soul' rolls off the tongue readily best selling author and Greenbelt Festival speaker Frank Schaeffer has made it into an art form in his latest novel 'And God Said "Billy!"'. Having already given us the fictional 'Portofino' and autobiographical 'Crazy for God' confessions he now offers readers an even more compelling work, a gritty and challenging literary journey beautifully written with lashings of humour encased in layers of grace.
The characters are so authentically vivid that they spring to life within Schaeffer's colourful narrative to such an extent that I felt I, too, became part of the story, surely indicative of a great piece of writing?
Schaeffer is known for his antagonism of right wing fundamental evangelicals and they do not come off lightly in this book. Yet they are not just a soft target by any account, there is far more to this with layered themes that cover many challenges including homophobia, racism, pornography, corruption, spiritual abuse and hypocrisy. I doubt many 'evangelicals' will ever read this and if they did their prejudices about Schaeffer would be re-inforced rather than challenged, he tells it how it is in a righteous and ruthless fashion with f-bombs in the dialogue rather than tame cliché.
The irony is that the Bible is quoted frequently throughout and whilst initially the book's hapless hero justifies everything he does, including criminal acts, utilising a blatantly literal interpretation of biblical texts, as the book progresses that approach morphs into a genuine quest for the deeper meaning contained therein.
In summary it's a romp into the dark from the different darkness of assumed light and a subsequent rescue in the most unlikely of places. It's a tale of losing 'redemption' to be truly and profoundly redeemed via a heady mix of thriller, some Russian Orthodox church history and a gut wrenchingly moving ending that took me completely by surprise. I simply couldn't put it down!